In our previous column we discussed how insurance companies can twist policies and distort the Affordable Care Act so that denials of care replace rationing. Now we have a situation wherein an actual diagnosis is rationed if not tossed to the winds, i.e., medical treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military veterans. This diagnosis can cost from $400,000 to $1.5 million in lifetime benefits.
Rep. Norm Dicks asked Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho to explain how 14 soldiers diagnosed with PTSD had their diagnoses retroactively changed by a forensic psychiatry team in such a manner as to reduce the veterans' disability benefits.
This method replaces actual rationing of care because it allows forensic personnel concerned with costs to overturn a medical diagnosis upon which actual treatment was based. The implication is that the injured soldiers were incorrectly treated and were then awarded excessive benefits.
Keep in mind that the so-called forensic team does not interview and examine the patients -- what they do is a coding audit to determine if the submitted paperwork justifies the diagnosis. Here's an example: post-concussion head syndrome, not a PTSD diagnosis per se, is listed as ICD-9 code 310.2. This diagnosis may include headaches, vertigo and cognitive loss. But if the paperwork reflects headache such that a forensic team can claim with a modicum of reasonable medical probability that the formal diagnosis of 301.2 wasn't fully documented, the diagnosis can be altered to one less remunerative in terms of treatment and disability benefits, e.g., headache, 784.0 -- in this way the payer, whether government or a private insurance company, saves money, increases corporate compensation for the private insuror, and puts the screws to the injured party, a private patient or a wounded soldier.
While we appreciate Rep. Dicks' intervention for the soldiers, we ask where he stands on repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (Section 10320) which is part of the Affordable Care Act for which readers will want to know how Dicks voted. Our expectation is that Rep. Dicks cares as much about Medicare recipients and patients generally as he does about PTSD veterans and their disability remuneration.
If Rep. Dicks wants to stop the deprivation of disabiity benefits to sick and injured soldiers, he just might want to do as much for sick and injured civilians. So might also my own Congressional representantive, Anna Eshoo, D-Ca.
How about it, Norm, Anna, and all other Members of Congress?
"Rationing Comes Home to Roost in the Form of Denial of Care," posted originally on www.politicsofhealthcare.com, 2/17/12, reprinted workcompcental, 2/24/12
"Army insists doctors at Madigan aren't discouraged from diagnosing PTSD," The News Tribune, by Adam Ashton, 2/10/12
"Head of Madigan removed from command admid PTSD probe," Seattle Times," 2/20/12, by Hal Bernton