Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hospice Is Becoming a Chain Business - Forbes


Large multi-agency, multi-state hospices are fast become the primary source of end-of-life care in the U.S.

According to a new study, chains cared for nearly half of all hospice patients in 2011, a dramatic increase from a decade before when small organizations (mostly non-profits) provided three-quarters of all care. And my own review of their financial reports suggests the biggest chains have grown even more since 2011.

The paper, authored by David Stevenson of Vanderbilt University and Jesse Dalton, David Grabowksi, and Haiden Huskamp of Harvard Medical School, was published in the January issue of Health Affairs (firewall). The authors did not look at the relative quality of care at any of these facilities. Nor did they calculate how long patients remained in hospice care at the chains. But they shed valuable light on how the business of end-of-life care is changing.

Hospice care is overwhelmingly funded by Medicare. And payment rates are generous enough that for-profits have long made inroads into this care model. The new study shows that, like many in the medical care industry, hospices are scrambling to consolidate so they can benefit from the economies of scale and marketing advantages of being big. Publicly-traded companies are responding to investor demands for increasing revenues.

Small non-profits still served more patients than for-profit chains in 2011, but Stevenson and colleagues found their share has been shrinking rapidly. In 2000, they cared for about 53 percent of enrollees. By 2011, they were caring for only about 37 percent. Over the same period, the for-profit chains’ share of enrollees grew from about one-quarter to nearly half. Non-profit chains accounted for roughly another 10 percent.

in 2000, a typical for-profit chain operated 5.6 agencies with 2,300 enrollees. By 2011, those firms owned an average of seven agencies with an average roster of 2,700 Medicare patients, according to the study.  By contrast, a typical mom-and-pop for-profit cared for only one-tenth as many people–about 220.

In some cases, corporate hospices are not just growing, they are getting huge. The paper reports that in 2011, the five largest for-profit chains owned 283 agencies with 190,000 patients. But the biggest players have grown even more since.

Hospice Is Becoming a Chain Business - Forbes

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Health Insurance Startup [co-op] Collapses In Iowa : Shots - Health News : NPR

Health Insurance Startup Collapses In Iowa : Shots - Health News : NPR:

 "It was a heck of a Christmas for David Fairchild and his wife, Clara Peterson. They found out they were about to lose their new health insurance.

"Clara was listening to the news on Iowa Public Radio and that's how we found out," Fairchild says. They went to their health plan's website that night. "No information. We still haven't gotten a letter about it from them."

David Fairchild and Clara Peterson own a small cleaning business in Iowa. The couple had health insurance via CoOportunity Health before the co-op faltered.
Clay Masters/Iowa Public Radio
The two are the sole employees of a cleaning service and work nights. Fairchild has chronic leukemia but treats it with expensive medicine. Last year they saved hundreds of dollars switching from the insurer Wellmark to a plan run by CoOportunity Health. For the first time in a long time, Fairchild says, they felt like they had room to breathe.

"Basically it covered our office visits; covered exams," he says. "It covered all but $40 of the medicine every four weeks. It was just marvelous. It probably was too good to be true."

It was for them. CoOportunity Health has failed. The Affordable Care Act set aside funding for health care co-ops, to enable the organizations to compete in places where there aren't many insurers. CoOportunity Health was the second- largest co-op in the country in terms of membership, and one of the largest in terms of the federal funding it received.

But then CoOportunity hit a kind of perfect storm, says Peter Damiano, director of the University of Iowa's public policy center. First, the co-op had to pay a lot more medical bills than those in charge expected."

Please read on...

'via Blog this'

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Friday, December 12, 2014

JAMA Network | JAMA | Reshaping US Health Care: From Competition and Confiscation to Cooperation and Mobilization


In this issue of JAMA, 3 Viewpoints, by Powers et al,1 Fuchs,2 and Fisher and Corrigan,3 address problems, possibilities, and mechanisms for reshaping the US health care enterprise to better meet community needs at an affordable cost.

In their Viewpoint, Powers et al1 grapple with a question as old as democracy: How can productive collective action, which is required for a state to succeed, emerge from the factional divisions for which protection is required for democratic principles to succeed?

The founding fathers of the United States debated this vigorously. In the most famous Federalist Paper,4 Madison favored a large republic in the hands of a meritocracy to counterbalance the passions of a majority “faction” that might overwhelm legitimate minority interests. Others wanted to protect states’ powers, arguing that smaller political units could be more responsive to local groups.

Madison defined a faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”4

Health care is ground zero for this problem, and the stakes are immense. Health care is a behemoth “faction” that controls one-sixth of the US economy and distorts the nation’s economic and political future. I recently ran as a candidate for governor of Massachusetts, and, in the course of an 18-month campaign, I saw vividly the effect of this dominating industry on the opportunities for the total well-being of a population of nearly 7 million people.

JAMA Network | JAMA | Reshaping US Health Care:  From Competition and Confiscation to Cooperation and Mobilization

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Robert Nozick, father of libertarianism: Even he gave up on the movement he inspired.

Thought I’d blogged this before, but this is from an excellent piece on Libertarianism’s most famous proponent and his own change in perspective later in life.

How could a thinker as brilliant as Nozick stay a party to this? The answer is: He didn't. "The libertarian position I once propounded," Nozick wrote in an essay published in the late '80s, "now seems to me seriously inadequate." In Anarchy democracy was nowhere to be found; Nozick now believed that democratic institutions "express and symbolize … our equal human dignity, our autonomy and powers of self-direction." In Anarchy, the best government was the least government, a value-neutral enforcer of contracts; now, Nozick concluded, "There are some things we choose to do together through government in solemn marking of our human solidarity, served by the fact that we do them together in this official fashion ..."

We're faced then with two intriguing mysteries. Why did the Nozick of 1975 confuse capital with human capital? And why did Nozick by 1989 feel the need to disavow the Nozick of 1975? The key, I think, is recognizing the two mysteries as twin expressions of a single, primal, human fallibility: the need to attribute success to one's own moral substance, failure to sheer misfortune. The effectiveness of the Wilt Chamberlain example, after all, is best measured by how readily you identify with Wilt Chamberlain. Anarchy is nothing if not a tour-de-force, an advertisement not just for libertarianism but for the sinuous intelligence required to put over so peculiar a thought experiment. In the early '70s, Nozick—and this is audible in the writing—clearly identified with Wilt: He believed his talents could only be flattered by a free market in high value-add labor. By the late '80s, in a world gone gaga for Gordon Gekko and Esprit, he was no longer quite so sure.

Robert Nozick, father of libertarianism: Even he gave up on the movement he inspired.

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Trends With Benefits | This American Life

An amazingly helpful look into what our disability program has become. Done with the usual attention to humanity and detail as we have come to expect from This American Life.

490: Trends With Benefits

Mar 22, 2013

The number of Americans receiving federal disability payments has nearly doubled over the last 15 years. There are towns and counties around the nation where almost 1/4 of adults are on disability. Planet Money's Chana Joffe-Walt spent 6 months exploring the disability program, and emerges with a story of the U.S. economy quite different than the one we've been hearing

Trends With Benefits | This American Life

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Are Americans Finding Affordable Coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplaces? - The Commonwealth Fund

Some good graphics and a chart pack on this topic. There are losers in this – higher income individuals and families who don’t qualify for significant subsidies under the exchanges.

By the end of the first open enrollment period for coverage offered through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces, increasing numbers of people said they found it easy to find a plan they could afford, according to The Commonwealth Fund’s Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey, April–June 2014. Adults with low or moderate incomes were more likely to say it was easy to find an affordable plan than were adults with higher incomes. Adults with low or moderate incomes who purchased a plan through the marketplaces this year have similar premium costs and deductibles as adults in the same income ranges with employer-provided coverage. A majority of adults with marketplace coverage gave high ratings to their insurance and were confident in their ability to afford the care they need when sick.

Are Americans Finding Affordable Coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplaces? - The Commonwealth Fund

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A Direct Primary Care Medical Home: The Qliance Experience

An innovative primary care model…

Who and Where A Seattle primary care practice accepting patients of all ages, staffed by internists, family physicians, and nurse practitioners.

Core Innovations In this direct care practice, in lieu of insurance, patients pay an age-adjusted monthly fee for unrestricted, comprehensive primary care. Patients have no copayments for visits. Low overhead allows providers to have small patient panels, giving patients better access and allowing more time per visit. The objective is to shift care away from expensive specialists and hospitals.

Key Results Qliance has established a viable, sustainable business model with low overhead and patient panels about a third the size of those of the average insurance-based family physician. This has allowed patients to enjoy much greater access and clinicians to delve much more deeply into patients’ health issues, do more research on health problems, work more closely with consultants when necessary, and work more intensively with patients on health change, leading to greater engagement of and satisfaction among clinicians.

A Direct Primary Care Medical Home: The Qliance Experience

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