Summary: “The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Monday released new regulations on how non-profit hospitals collect sums owed by patients. The intent of the regulations is to prod hospitals to behave in a more transparent manner with patients and give them an opportunity to apply for financial assistance. The rules bar hospitals from seeking payments from patients in their treatment rooms, or selling their debt to collections agencies without making a “reasonable effort” to offer financial assistance first. Hospitals will also be limited from billing patients without insurance who are eligible for financial assistance any more than what they charge insured patients. They must also widely publicize their financial eligibility guidelines and clearly communicate them to patients.” Ron Shinkman, Dec. 30, 2014, via IRS issues new regulations on patient finances, collections, – FierceHealthFinance.
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Summary: We get a lot of questions about anonymous reviews online. The idea that people can hide behind a spurious name and express opinions about a business, a doctor or anyone else online is a fairly frequent topic of discussion in our PriceCheck project, where we allow individuals to tell prices and also comment about their providers. So we were interested in this recent Oregon court ruling on a case involving TripAdvisor.com, which — like Yelp, ZocDoc, Vitals, HealthGrades, Chowhound and a raft of other businesses — also allows anonymous reviews.
Summary: Quality rankings are hard to find in health care. Here’s a good resource for New York State, documenting infection rates for various procedures in 2013, hospital by hospital — though it’s hardly user-friendly: “Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) result in prolonged hospital stays, unnecessary deaths, increased antimicrobial resistance, greater healthcare costs, and added emotional and personal costs to patients and their families. This report summarizes HAI rates in New York State (NYS) hospitals in 2013. It is the seventh annual report to be issued since reporting began in 2007 following the implementation of Public Health Law 2819. All NYS HAI reports are available at http://www.health.ny.gov/statistics/facilities/hospital/hospital_acquired_infections/. These data are available for download at https://health.data.ny.gov/. .
Summary: Paying more because you have health insurance? It’s definitely happening for some people. Many of us are accustomed to thinking that we pay insurance premiums to get access to a lower cost for health care procedures — that being the “negotiated rate” or “contracted rate” that the insurance company and the payer agree to in contract talks. But increasingly we are hearing, in our California PriceCheck project and elsewhere, that insured people are paying more than uninsured people — not everywhere, and not all the time, but not infrequently.
Summary: “The Center for Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) at the University of Michigan reports that until 2002, most people with employer-sponsored insurance that included prescription drug coverage were in plans with one or two formulary tiers. As of last year, nearly 25% of insured people were in plans with four or five tiers, and the highest two tiers typically were devoted to specialty medications.” Click this link to read more in “Health Plans, Patients Struggle To Pay for High-Cost Drugs” in Managed Care Magazine Online.
Summary: A new report has just been published by MN Community Measurement that allows consumers to compare the cost of health care at medical groups across the state. I don’t know of another database quite like this one for actionable consumer information.
Summary: Performance transparency is as broken in health care as price transparency is. Here is a compelling perspective in a piece from the New England Journal of Medicine explaining just how many ways performance metrics are broken, and offering a few suggestions on how to fix the situation.
Summary: The abortion rate is at a historic low, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which recently issued a report citing 2011 statistics collected from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and New York City. Women in their 20’s accounted for the largest number.
Summary: We’ve been asked several times recently why we’re a for-profit and not a nonprofit. Here’s why: We are a for-profit because we were founded out of the entrepreneurial journalism class at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, run by Jeff Jarvis and Jeremy Caplan, which has grown into the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the CUNY J-School.
Summary: The Harvard Business Review/New England Journal of Medicine featured my article describing clearhealthcosts.com and our work on PriceCheck on Nov. 26. In a piece titled “It’s Absurd That Health Care Costs Are So Confusing,” I explained how health cost transparency is helping empower people in the marketplace.