Secret Healthcare Deals

This Wall Street Journal article will turn your stomach nicely.  If you can’t read it then here are some lowlights:

  • Dominant hospital systems use an array of secret contract terms to protect their turf and block efforts to curb health-care costs. As part of these deals, hospitals can demand insurers include them in every plan and discourage use of less-expensive rivals. Other terms allow hospitals to mask prices from consumers, limit audits of claims, add extra fees and block efforts to exclude health-care providers based on quality or cost.
  • The Wall Street Journal has identified dozens of contracts with terms that limit how insurers design plans, involving operators such as Johns Hopkins Medicine in Maryland, the 10-hospital OhioHealth system and Aurora Health Care, a major system in the Milwaukee market. National hospital operator HCA Healthcare Inc. also has restrictions in insurer contracts in certain markets.
  • Certain hospital systems are able to command advantageous terms because they have grown through years of deal-making, shifting the balance of power between hospitals and insurers. In 2010, the year the Affordable Care Act passed, the annual number of hospital mergers shot up 40% to 59, and the number of deals has remained above 60 every year since, according to Irving Levin Associates, a research firm that tracks health-care transactions.
  • “If you’re the single hospital system in an area, you essentially can set your price, because you’re a monopoly.”
  • Among the secret restrictions are so-called anti-steering clauses that prevent insurers from steering patients to less-expensive or higher-quality health-care providers. In some cases, they block the insurer from creating plans that cut out the system, or ones that include only some of the system’s hospitals or doctors. They also hinder plans that offer incentives such as lower copays for patients to use less-expensive or higher-quality health-care providers. The restrictive contracts sometimes require that every facility and doctor in the contracting hospital system be placed in the most favorable category, with the lowest out-of-pocket charges for patients—regardless of whether they meet the qualifications.

I love that we, as physicians, are watched liked hawks for conflicts of interest.  We are at the whim of the state medical board if there is ONE complaint.  We can be audited and fined for any coding issues.  We are blamed for the opioid crisis and are being penalized for it.  We can’t refer to facilities we own and we can’t open surgical centers without massive legal action.  But these hospitals and insurers are making back room deals that continually increase the cost of healthcare and nothing will ever happen to them.

It makes me sick.  Your thoughts?

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Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  3 comments for “Secret Healthcare Deals

  1. MD.
    October 3, 2018 at 8:59 pm

    Every Doctor in this country should write orders for what they think is the best treatment for their patients at 5 pm on one single day and find out what happens.

    If they were blocked by the c suite, the business would shut down.

    Last time I checked, MBA’s can’t write orders treat patients or block their docs from practicing excellent medicine. We are either going to die by a million cuts or take a chance and put them in their place.

  2. heidi
    October 3, 2018 at 9:14 am

    So sick I left the field, training to do something, anything else…disappointed and demoralized.

  3. Martha Oreilly
    October 3, 2018 at 8:18 am

    We are scapegoated because all we want to do is take care of patients while all this other crap occurs around us and because our professional societies like ABIM AMA see us as a tit to milk and not as an asset to protect. ABIM could give a shit that non doctors can run around calling themselves “board certified” after undergoing a tiny fraction of what we endure to call ourselves the same. But they land like the molten wrath of god onto Aurora/Dr Jamie over the slightest notion that a question from their precious board exam could be recalled and discussed in class.

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