Monday, February 11, 2013
OBAMACARE IN THE STATE OF THE UNION ; WRONGFUL DENIALS OF CARE IN CALIFORNIA
WILL PRESIDENT OBAMA'S STATE OF THE UNION MESSAGE CONTAIN MEANINGFUL COMMENT RE THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT?
"I will ensure that no government bureaucrat gets between you and the care you need." These words tumbled effortlessly from a confident President Obama in the autumn of 2009 but were immediately set aside in favor of more bureaucracy than healthcare has ever known. Healthcare pundits know that Obamacare as currently written allows for regulation of healthcare by non-physicians through a mechanism known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) whose concern is fiscal health as opposed to the health of patients. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) also has a built-in mechanism starting in 2014 that will require $1.5 trillion in costs for families and businesses according to Stephen Frank, publisher & editor, California Political News and Views, 9/21/11. This dire prediction for the ACA worries fiscal conservatives. If the estimate is accurate it should worry everyone. We'll wait for President Obama to set our concerns aside before we comment further on Obamacare's managerial accounting.
Remember: the IPAB was once known as the IMAB or Independent Medicare Advisory Board. When the nation's Medicare patients realized they were being targeted for denial of care and supervision of allowable care as a form of rationing, they raised a hue and cry. The IMAB was brought down. When the storm subsided, it was resurrected as the IPAB.
In the second debate with Governor Romney the president was asked about the make-up of the IPAB. He said it would be "doctors et cetera." There is nothing in the language creating the ACA that requires even one physician to be appointed to the IPAB. That's because, although expanded medical care was the ostensible reason for the ACA, fiscal control has always trumped medical excellence in its design. The provision of the latest and best in medical care is spoken about but the IPAB is there to restrict what's actually offered. Congress itself wants none of it and opted out of the ACA. Nonetheless, it's likely that at least one physician who is cooperative enough with the administration will be appointed to the IPAB. During the debate when the president said "doctors et cetera" he gave a false assurance that Governor Romney didn't recognize as such and let pass. We hope the the president will do better in the state of the union speech.
HOW ABOUT CALIFORNIA?
WILL CALIFORNIA STOP DENIALS OF CARE BY IMR DOCTORS WHOSE NAMES ARE KEPT SECRET OR WHO ARE NOT LICENSED TO PRACTICE IN CALIFORNIA?
WILL INSURANCE COMPANIES IN CALIFORNIA BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE TO RETAIN UR PHYSICIANS WITHOUT CALIFORNIA LICENSES?
We await legislation to abolish secret review of utilization review (UR) denials by so-called Independent Medical Review (IMR) physicians whose names will be concealed by law as mandated by SB 863. We await restoration of the WCAB's ability to overrule wrong and harmful decisions that deny medical care to injured workers. We also still await law that requires physicians who do Utilization Review and Independent Medical Review to be licensed in California. As matters stand now, doctors not licensed in California can do UR and IMR reviews and deny care to injured workers in California. As the law stands now, the non-California-licensed physician cannot be disciplined in California even for the stupidest and most harmful denials of care since these doctors aren't subject to the medical board of this state. The doctor may be licensed in other states but those other states don't have jurisdiction in California. The time to correct this travesty is overdue. Labor unions and legislators should revisit SB 863.
As matters stand now, a company named Maximus from Maryland is seeking doctors to do Medical Necessity Reviews for $150 to $200 per review. We do not have reliable information at this time as to what percentage of cases reviewed by Maximus end up in denial of care for injured workers. We don't know how much Maximus will actually pay for each review or how the money will be divided up -- we do know that the doctors are being offered a small enough percentage so that the deal remains attractive in terms of corporate compensation. We presume that the labor unions around the state would be interested in the details. Do we guess wrong? Tell us where we may've gone astray, please!
We will be adding to these comments on Obamacare, SB 863 in California, and wrongful denials of care over the next few days. Stay tuned. These issues are hot potatoes.