Thursday, February 26, 2009

Medicare costs vary widely according to the region

The New York Times recently wrote an article about how widely Medicare costs are varied from region to region. The article points to Miami and Dallas costing more for Medicare tan San Fransisco and Pittsburgh. Part of the evidence suggests that doctors order more tests to drive up the costs, as they are paid on a volume basis. Read the article here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Study on Estimates of National Personal Health Spending by Medical Condition is Released

A study that provides estimates of national personal health spending by medical condition was published today in the Health Affairs Website. According to this article on the study came from research lead by Dr. Charles Roehrig of Ann Arbor and is called “National Health Spending by Medical Condition, 1996-2005.”

The study discusses how spending for mental disorders like dementia, depression, and anxiety accounted for roughly $142 billion in 2005, which was the most expensive condition. Heart conditions came in second accounting for $123 billion in 2005 or 8 percent of personal health spending. The research also discussed how personal health spending increased nearly 7 percent annually from the time period of 1996-2005.

You can view the full report here on the Health Affairs website.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Doctor closed doors to new patient to make statement

The Mercury News of San Jose, California, recently published a piece on Dr. Chris O'Grady. He's a doctor in geriatrics who was over worked and not compensated fairly enough by Congress for his Medicare work. Last year, he went as far as not accepting any new patients to have his point heard.

"Until the patients complain, nothing's going to happen. If nobody on Medicare can get in to see a doctor, the politicians have to respond to that. We're at this uncomfortable point. The patients are kind of stuck in the middle. It's a standoff between doctors and Congress," Dr. O'Grady said.

What do you think? Will this become an increasing problem if Congress continues to slash Medicare rates?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Michigan healtcare system in trouble

Michigan is already suffering from the current crisis in the automobile industry, and now the Michigan health care system is in trouble, according to Michigan Online. The system has over $2 billion of bad debt, and one of the reasons is because of charity care and losses due to Medicare and Medicaid patients.

For more on the state of Michigan's health care system, read the article at

Monday, February 9, 2009

UnitedHealth testing new healthcare system

What would happen if doctors were rewarded based on the quality of care they gave instead of how many patients and tests they performed? UnitedHealth Group is working with IBM to test out this new policy. They've joined forces with a seven medical groups, who employees 26 doctors and has approximately 7,000 patients. UnitedHealth Care will reward the doctors based on the quality of service they provide, which will be shown by closely monitoring the patients progress.

UnitedHealth hopes this system will bring down medical costs while making people healthier. Doctors will save money on medical costs due to the close monitoring of patients, which will result in fewer hospitalizations in addition to fewer emergency room visits. This test will run through 2011. For more information, read the article at the New York Times.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Kerry Weems at 2009 Medicare Advantage Congress

We're pleased to announce Kerry Weems will be joining the 2009 Medicare Advantage Congress, which will be taking place from February 9-11 in San Diego, California.

Mr. Weems is a 24-year veteran official of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, including having spent two years as Deputy Chief of Staff to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt. His knowledge of Medicare Advantage is incomparable and there is no one who could provide more valuable insights into the future of Medicare Advantage and the impact the incoming Administration will have.

For more on the Medicare Advantage Congress, please visit our website here.

Loophole in Medicare Drug Plan Severely Impacts Seniors

The latest post on reports that seniors who have reached the “no coverage” point in the Medicare Part D drug plan are less likely to use percription drugs or visit the doctor according to researchers at the University Of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health.

The team suggests that a subtle increase in the initial co-payments of prescription drugs can help protect seniors against the problems that arise from the loophole in their Medicare coverage. This “doughnut hole” will pose as a serious problem for seniors with chronic illnesses who need to take prescription drugs on a regular basis.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Medicare premiums raised

At Bloomberg, they report that different companies that provide Medicare, have increased their health care premiums by as much as 13%, which is five times more than the premium was raised last year. These increases directly affect the elderly, as they're the ones who are billed for the increase. This is on the cusp of Obama trying to pass a new bill that would increase funding for Medicare. For more information, read this article.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Medicare Doctor Data Should Remain Private, Court Says

According to the, a federal appeals court sided with doctors in a long fight over who should be allowed to see Medicare data on individual doctors. The judges concluded that the freedom-of-information rules under which Consumers’ Checkbook requested the information are intended to shed light on public institutions, not private businesses such as physician practices.

What do you think will be the lasting effects that this decision has on medicare?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lower 4th Quarter Earnings for Humana Means Trouble

The Associated Press reports in this post in that the health insurer Humana has reported huge fourth quarter loss in earnings due to higher claim expenses from its stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plans, lower investment income and a loss in its commercial business. The company though, is forecasting a huge turnaround in 2009, with share earnings ranging from $5.90 to $6.10, compared to $3.83 at year end. Humana Chief Operating Officer Jim Murray even mentions:

"We're doing them much more vigorously and identifying new opportunities to evaluate data that makes us feel much more comfortable than we did at this point last year."

Is the expected turnaround for Humana feasible? What are your thoughts?