Archive for the ‘health reform’ Category

Why Importing Foreign Doctors may not fix the shortage.

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

MoS2 Template Master

The coming doctor shortage that I have previously written about might be dealt with as Canada did with theirs some years ago, by importing foreign medical graduates. Britain has adopted a similar plan as thousands of younger doctors plan to leave Britain.

How is the plan to import foreign doctors working out ?

Not very well.

Nearly three-quarters of doctors struck off the medical register in Britain are foreign, according to shocking figures uncovered in a Mail on Sunday investigation.
Medics who trained overseas have been banned from practising for a series of shocking blunders and misdemeanours.
Cases include an Indian GP who ran an immigration scam from his surgery, a Ghanaian neurosurgeon who pretended he had removed a patient’s brain tumour, and a Malaysian doctor who used 007-style watches to secretly film intimate examinations with his female patients.

First of all, foreign medical schools are often limited in real experience and students often graduate with nothing beyond classroom lectures.

This was the case with Mexican medical schools, like that in Guadalajara where many American students attended. A program was devised to provide them with a year of clinical training before they could be licensed.

The revelations come just a week after it emerged health bosses want to lure 400 trainee GPs here from India, to help ease short-staffing in the NHS.
Last night Julie Manning, chief executive of think-tank 2020 Health, said: ‘The NHS has thrived on many international doctors coming to work in the UK – but the public needs reassuring they are all truly fit to practise in the first place.’

Of course, the foreign doctors have their defenders.

Dr Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, admitted ‘there is a problem’ with the high strike-off rate among foreign doctors. But he claimed racism played a part.

We have a similar problem with affirmative action medical graduates but the figures are not available about their rates of license revocation. For example, the The Alan Bakke case went to the US Supreme Court, which eventually ruled in his favor. By the time the court ruled, years had gone by and Bakke eventually did gradate from medical school and has practiced quietly ever since.

However, a black student admitted by the program that denied Bakke a place was subsequently prosecuted for gross negligence and his license removed. Affirmative Action has been vigorously defended.

An admissions process that allows for ethnicity and other special characteristics to be used heavily in admission decisions yields powerful effects on the diversity of the student population and shows no evidence of diluting the quality of the graduates.

However, the conclusion does not match the findings in the study.

Regular admission students had higher scores on Parts I and II of the National Board of Medical Examiners examination, and special consideration students were more likely to repeat the examination to receive a passing grade.

The article goes on to explain that There was no difference in completion of residency training or evaluation of performance by residency directors.

A friend of mine was the Chairman of the Department of Surgery at a UC medical school who decided to fire a black female resident for incompetence. He was advised by the UC system and the other department heads that he would lose a lawsuit if she filed one. She did, in fact, file such a lawsuit alleging racial prejudice (of course). The department chair was able to successfully defend his decision but the fact that no one else was willing to try explains the finding that There was no difference in completion of residency training or evaluation of performance by residency directors.

I have had the experience of being a Surgery Department Chair in a community hospital confronted with the application of a known incompetent surgeon. The same factors apply to those known to be dishonest. A request for a letter of reference from the department in which the applicant trained usually results in a response that states, “The applicant completed the residency from X date to Y date.” No other information is provided and a further request is usually answered by “The matter is in litigation,” or words to that effect. This applies to all such applicants but affirmative action individuals are almost impossible to find negative information on even if the “grapevine” has provided warnings.

The general concern can be found, but details are thin on the ground.

A quick scan of the documents reveals that white students applying to medical school with a GPA in the 3.40-3.59 range and with an MCAT score in the 21-23 range (a below-average score on a test with a maximal score of 45) had an 11.5% acceptance rate (total of 1,500 applicants meeting these criteria). Meanwhile, a review of minority students (black, Latino, and Native American) with the same GPA and MCAT range had a 42.6% acceptance rate (total of 745 applicants meeting these criteria). Thus, as a minority student with a GPA and MCAT in the aforementioned ranges, you are more than 30% more likely to gain acceptance to a medical school.

There are other sources of the facts, but they don’t appear in mainstream publications. Social Justice keeps most of these concerns underground.

A friend of mine, who is Cuban born and an immigrant as a child, applied to UC, San Francisco medical school. This was in the 1970s. Affirmative Action was well underway. He waited several weeks, then months, to hear if he had been accepted. Finally, he drove to San Francisco and asked someone in the Admissions Office what had happened to his application. He was told that it was in the “Hispanic Applicant Committee.” Having no idea what criteria such a committee might be using to determine who should be admitted, he asked if his application could just be considered as a “white” applicant. This was done and he received a letter approving his admission a few days later.

The pressure is now on medical education to provide the hundreds of thousands of new doctors this society believes it needs. Productivity of the present graduates is well below that of my generation. Some of that is the disappearance of fee-for-service practice which motivates work ethic. Some of it is a result of the 60% female medical school classes.

The female doctor population is acknowledged to work less.

Today, however, increasing numbers of doctors — mostly women — decide to work part time or leave the profession. Since 2005 the part-time physician workforce has expanded by 62 percent, according to recent survey data from the American Medical Group Association, with nearly 4 in 10 female doctors between the ages of 35 and 44 reporting in 2010 that they worked part time.

This was the reason why medical school admissions committees “discriminated” against female applicants in the 1960s when I was a medical student. They were concerned, even then, about a doctor shortage and assumed women would stop working to have children or practice part-time.

They were absolutely correct.

Canada is finding some productivity issues and even some explanation.

a fee for service model, and its inherent encouragement of increased productivity through increased volume of patients, a significant shift away from this single model is taking hold.

This, of course, will not deter the Social Justice types as more doctors with less productivity is somehow more efficient than paying doctors more to encourage higher work loads. Socialism is the aim, productivity will have to take care of itself.

In the meantime, PHYSICIANS WHO DID not attend medical schools in the United States or Canada, referred to as “international medical graduates (IMGs)”, play an integral role in the U.S. health care system. Such physicians now represent approximately 25 percent of practicing doctors nationwide.

It’s going to increase.

The Doctor Shortage, discovered once more.

Friday, April 1st, 2016

33 - Lister

I have previously written posts about a coming doctor shortage.

They assume that primary care will be delivered by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. They are probably correct as we see with the new Wal Mart primary care clinics.

The company has opened five primary care locations in South Carolina and Texas, and plans to open a sixth clinic in Palestine, Tex., on Friday and another six by the end of the year. The clinics, it says, can offer a broader range of services, like chronic disease management, than the 100 or so acute care clinics leased by hospital operators at Walmarts across the country. Unlike CVS or Walgreens, which also offer some similar services, or Costco, which offers eye care, Walmart is marketing itself as a primary medical provider.

This is all well and good. What happens when a patient comes in with a serious condition ?

The health policy “experts” have been concerned to train “lesser licensed practitioners” and have pretty much ignored primary care MDs except to burden them with clumsy electronic medical record systems that take up time and make life miserable.

I repeatedly ask medical students if they would choose a career in primary care if it would completely erase their student loan debt. A few hands go up, but not many. In fact, for a while now, the federal government has dedicated millions of dollars to repaying loans for students who choose primary care. Yet residency match numbers show that the percentage of students choosing primary care is not increasing. Though loan forgiveness is a step in the right direction, medical students realize that by choosing a more lucrative specialty, they can pay off their loans just fine.

I proposed years ago, a health reform that resembled that of France where medical school is free. It could be arranged that service in primary care, low income clinics would give credit against student loans. Nothing happened. Except physician income has declined. And tuition has increased.

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Another update on the NHS, Bernie’s favorite health plan.

Friday, February 12th, 2016

NHS

I have mentioned problems with the NHS here before.

That was about emergency care.

Last fall there was a concern about junior doctors emigrating to other countries.

Britain is already suffering from a serious, and unprecedented, shortage of GPs, on a scale that doctors’ leaders say is fast becoming a crisis.

According to figures released last week, a staggering 10.2 per cent of full-time GP positions across the UK are currently vacant, a figure that has quadrupled in the past three years.

Two-thirds of practices are now finding it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to find locums — freelance medics — to cover the shortfall.
As our population gets steadily older, and sicker, frontline surgeries are becoming increasingly swamped.
‘We are in dire straits if we do not act to address the GP recruitment crisis immediately,’ the Royal College of GPs warned last week.

In standard government medicine fashion, the British Health Minister imposed a new employment contract that ignored doctors complaints.

The result ?

Junior doctors are threatening a mass exodus to Australia after Jeremy Hunt forced through his controversial new contract yesterday.
There has been a huge surge in the numbers seeking certificates to practise abroad and some have already lined up jobs.
Almost 760 doctors were issued with documents by the General Medical Council in the first four weeks of this year – nearly 200 a week and almost double the usual number. Although they include some older GPs and consultants, the vast majority were disillusioned younger doctors.

Becoming a doctor is a classic middle class occupational choice. Few doctors become rich and almost none do so from actual practice. There was a phase in the 1960s when doctors suddenly became much more prosperous as Medicare was introduced, providing payment for care that had been done for no charge mostly. With time, the US government has reduced compensation and imposed rules designed to reduce costs. With the imposition of Obamacare, many older doctors who do not have heavy student loan balances and whose own children are educated, are choosing to drop all insurance, including Medicare, and practice for cash.

Obamacare has resulted in many hospitals consolidating and buying up medical practices to develop a vertically integrated system of health care delivery that resembles old industrial models. The result for physicians is a trend to salary jobs and dissatisfaction with their careers.

I met a woman geriatrician, the only fellowship trained geriatric specialist in central Iowa. She had quit Medicare. That sounds a bit suicidal if all your patients are Medicare age. What had happened was she was being harassed by Medicare because she was seeing patients too often. Many of them were frail elderly living at home. She dropped out and began charging her patients cash for services. She was making a decent living after a year and was happy with her decision. I don’t know how many realize that geriatrics, as a specialty, is a university subsidized field. There is no private geriatric practice because the doctor can’t survive on what Medicare pays. She tried and had to quit. She is doing it on her own now.

That was about Medicare. The same is happening with Obamacare and the medical conglomerates that have been assembled in anticipation of the “Industrial Model” of medical care. How is that working out in Britain ?

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2015 is gone, thank God.

Friday, January 1st, 2016

2015-a-maes-Marty_thumb

I am content to see the year 2015 gone. I can remember as a college student thinking that 1960 would never come. That was a good year. I didn’t graduate from USC as planned but I did get married and I did get accepted to medical school.

Some of the story is here in my short biography. More of it is here in my “stream of consciousness.” The next installment is here as I describe Basic Training.

When I got back from Basic Training in December 1959, I had my first date with Irene Lynch. A year later to the day, we were married and a week later, I got a letter from SC Medical School telling I had been accepted to the class beginning in September 1961. So, 1960 was a pretty good year.

In 2015 I spent what I think will be my last year teaching medical students at what is now named “Keck School of Medicine of USC” and is where I attended from 1962 to 1966. I went back to teaching there in 1998 in a program called Introduction to Clinical Medicine, which seems to be disappearing into the “Family Medicine” Department which is a shame.

I now have a book of memoirs called “War Stories: 50 years in Medicine” and which is a Kindle book only so far. Much of my medical school experience is included along with stories from my years as a surgeon. It started to be “40 years a surgeon” but I decided to include the rest and changed to 50. In June 2016, it will 50 years since I graduated from Medical School and that seemed a appropriate.

I enjoyed my time with students and I am quitting only because of frustrations with the Electronic Medical Record, about which I used to be enthusiastic, and with changes in the County Hospital which used to be a wonderful teaching institution. The Electronic Medical Record, now more often called The Electronic Health Record, probably because much of it is not about medicine, is a big problem.

The EHR, as it is called, has acquired a bad reputation.

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An update for fans of the NHS

Friday, November 27th, 2015

NHS

I have posted a number of essays on what I think health reform should look like. None of it looks like the NHS. Now, we have new information about how the NHS is functioning.

Figures collected by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) over the last seven weeks showed 88 per cent of A&E patients were treated or admitted within four hours – seven per cent below the 95 per cent target.
The report said that hospitals are also experiencing major problems discharging patients who are medically fit to go home.
Hospitals in England are failing to meet the 95 per cent target of seeing patients within four hours

The problem is being exacerbated by ‘bed blocking’ – where a patients cannot leave because there is not the right support in place in the community – with about a fifth of hospital beds being occupied in some parts of the UK.
Experts say the increasing problems in social care are having a major impact on the NHS.

This is an old problem with free care. We used to have patients in County hospital who would heat thermometers with hot coffee to avoid being sent home. Some of them were mentally disturbed and I have one such story in my book, “War Stories; 50 years in Medicine.

The NHS is having troubles all over.

The data shows performance getting worse since hospitals began submitting the data at the start of October.
Then, just over 92 per cent of patients were seen in four hours, falling to 88 per cent in the middle of November.
More than 6,300 planned operations have been cancelled over the seven-week period.
As an overall average, each site cancelled 21 operations per week, ranging from no cancellations to 137 in a single week.
The Department of Health and NHS England used to publish weekly data for England on how A&E departments were performing but have now stopped doing so.
Instead, data is published monthly but only covers figures from more than a month ago.

Hiding bad news is an old tactic of bureaucracies.

The Coming Shortage of Doctors.

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

33 - Lister

This Brietbart article discusses the looming doctor shortage.

Lieb notes, that the U.S. is only seeing 350 new general surgeons a year. That is not even a replacement rate, she observed.

A few years ago, I was talking to a woman general surgeon in San Francisco who told me that she did not know a general surgeon under 50 years old. The “reformers” who designed Obamacare and the other new developments in medicine are, if they are MDs, not in practice and they are almost all in primary care specialties in academic settings. They know nothing about surgical specialties.

They assume that primary care will be delivered by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. They are probably correct as we see with the new Wal Mart primary care clinics.

The company has opened five primary care locations in South Carolina and Texas, and plans to open a sixth clinic in Palestine, Tex., on Friday and another six by the end of the year. The clinics, it says, can offer a broader range of services, like chronic disease management, than the 100 or so acute care clinics leased by hospital operators at Walmarts across the country. Unlike CVS or Walgreens, which also offer some similar services, or Costco, which offers eye care, Walmart is marketing itself as a primary medical provider.

This is all well and good. What happens when a patient comes in with a serious condition ?

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Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity.

Monday, July 20th, 2015

I spent an interesting day last Saturday at a USC post-graduate course on “premalignant lesions of the GI react.”

Part of the session discussed the question of obesity and diet. “Fatty liver” is a condition related to obesity and metabolic syndrome.

The Wikipedia definition includes.
1. abdominal (central) obesity,
2. elevated blood pressure,
3. elevated fasting plasma glucose,
4. high serum triglycerides, and
5. low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels

Central obesity is not the same as subcutaneous obesity, which is what we all think of. Titters out there is a racial factor with blacks more likely to have subcutaneous obesity without the central obesity involving the liver and internal organs.

Metabolic syndrome and prediabetes appear to be the same disorder, with insulin resistance as a major factor.

Other signs of metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure, decreased fasting serum HDL cholesterol, elevated fasting serum triglyceride level (VLDL triglyceride), impaired fasting glucose, insulin resistance, or prediabetes.

Associated conditions include:
1. hyperuricemia,
2. fatty liver (especially in concurrent obesity) progressing to
3. nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,a.so called NAFL
4. polycystic ovarian syndrome (in women),
5. erectile dysfunction (in men), and
6. acanthosis nigricans.

It is generally accepted that the current food environment contributes to the development of metabolic syndrome: our diet is mismatched with our biochemistry. Weight gain is associated with metabolic syndrome. Rather than total adiposity, the core clinical component of the syndrome is visceral and/or ectopic fat (i.e., fat in organs not designed for fat storage) whereas the principal metabolic abnormality is insulin resistance.

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Expensive babies.

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Mila

There is a post on Instapundit today about expensive babies.

It references a new book about a premature baby and is named “Girl in Glass.”

That baby was referred to by the CEO of AOL in a speech to employees explaining why he was cutting benefits for all employees. Her care cost 1 million dollars. The Guardian article goes on to complain about US healthcare (of course) and the cost of premature baby care.

I have a somewhat similar story in my own new book, War Stories. My story is not about a premature baby, although I have one of those too, but a little boy who was born with a heart defect that caused an 18 month hospital stay at Childrens’ Hospital in Los Angeles.

Here it is:

Following my general surgical residency training, I spent an additional year training in pediatric heart surgery at Children’s Hospital. During this time I learned more about the amazing resiliency of children and their recovery from terrible illness. I was also reminded of the constant possibility of catastrophic error in medicine. One young patient named Chris was the best example of the tremendous recuperative powers of children. He was coming in for open-heart surgery to repair a large ventricular septal defect. The ventricles are separated by a muscular wall called the septum, which forms during early fetal development of the heart. The heart has four chambers, two atria and two ventricles, which are separated by walls called “septa,” plural of septum. There are a number of major cardiac anomalies associated with the development of the atrial and ventricular septa and also with the rotation of the heart and the connection of the great arteries to the ventricles from which they arise. Chris was born with a very large defect in the septum between the right and left ventricle. In this situation, the newborn goes into congestive heart failure very shortly after birth. The defect causes no trouble before birth because the lungs are not inflated and the blood flow through the lungs is very small. The cardiac circulation in utero consists of oxygenated blood returning from the placenta through the umbilical veins, passing in a shunt through the liver and then entering the right atrium, which also receives the non-oxygenated venous blood from the body. The oxygenated blood returning from the placenta enters the right atrium and passes through a normal atrial septal opening called “the foramen ovale,” which shunts it directly to the left atrium and left ventricle for circulation out to the body. This bypasses the lungs. The venous blood, and the umbilical vein oxygenated blood that does not go through the foramen ovale, enters the right ventricle where it is pumped into the pulmonary artery. There, because of the high pulmonary resistance it goes through another shunt, the ductus arteriosus, a connection between the pulmonary artery and the aorta, to bypass the lungs and circulate to the body. Minimal flow goes beyond the ductus into the pulmonary arteries until birth. During fetal life, the presence of a ventricular septal defect merely eases the task of shunting the oxygenated blood from the right side of the heart to the left and then out to the general circulation.

When the infant is delivered into the world from its mother’s uterus, it inflates its lungs and very rapidly major circulatory changes occur in the heart and lungs. The pulmonary arteries to the lungs, which during intrauterine life carry almost no blood because of a very high resistance to flow in the collapsed lungs, suddenly become a low resistance circuit with the inflation. The foramen ovale, which has a flap valve as a part of its normal structure, begins to close very quickly and the ductus arteriosus, connecting the pulmonary artery and the aorta, also closes within a matter of several hours. These two shunt closures are accomplished by hormonal changes associated with the changing physiology of the newborn. In very low birth weight preemies, that have low blood oxygen concentration due to immature lungs, the ductus often does not close. In the child with a ventricular septal defect, the sudden drop in resistance to flow in the pulmonary circulation together with the closing of the ductus arteriosus causes the shunt, which was directed from the right to the left heart in utero, to switch to a left to right shunt after birth. The pulmonary circulation is now the low resistance circuit and the systemic circulation; that is, the aorta going out to the arms, legs, and organs is now a relatively high resistance circuit. The flow in the pulmonary circuit goes up tremendously, a short circuit in effect, taxing the ability of the right ventricle to handle the load. At the same time circulation to the organs, the brain and the extremities, drops because of the shunt. This combination of circumstances produces acute congestive heart failure in a newborn. Cardiac output is huge but the flow is going around in a circle through the lungs and then back to the lungs.

Chris had a huge ventricular septal defect and as soon as his lungs inflated and the pulmonary circulation began to assume the normal low resistance of the newborn, he developed an enormous left to right shunt and went into heart failure. The venous return from the body entered his right atrium, passed into the right ventricle and on into the pulmonary artery to circulate through the lungs. Once the oxygenated blood returned to the left atrium on its way to the body, it was shunted back to the lungs because the pressure in the aorta and left ventricle was much higher than that in the right ventricle and pulmonary artery. The short circuit in the heart diverted almost all blood flow to the lungs and little went to the body. The right ventricle, which is thin walled and flat like a wallet, cannot handle the load and quickly fails. The treatment of an infant with a large ventricular septal defect and heart failure is to perform a temporary correction by placing a band around the pulmonary artery above the heart. This accomplishes two purposes. One, it artificially creates a high resistance and equalizes the pressure in the right and left ventricles so that the flow across the ventricular septal defect is minimized. The right ventricular pressure is as high as the left ventricular pressure and little or no shunt occurs. This stops the huge shunt and, with the smaller flow, the ventricle can handle the pressure. It also protects the lungs from high blood flow that damages the pulmonary circulation.

In a related anomaly called “Tetralogy of Fallot” a partial shunt occurs but it is the other way, right to left, since the pulmonary artery is severely narrowed at its origin as part of the anomaly. These children do not go into heart failure, but they are blue because of the mixture of venous blood from the right side and arterial blood from the left. Some patients with ventricular septal defect (VSD) do not go into heart failure because the shunt is not that large but if treatment is delayed and a continued high flow through the lungs persists, in later life they develop irreversible changes in the lungs from the damage to the pulmonary circulation by high flow rates. They become blue later as the increasing pulmonary resistance in the lungs reverses the shunt from left to right to right to left as in Tetrology of Fallot. This condition is called “Eisenmenger’s Complex” and, once it occurs, cannot be corrected. Once this reversal occurs they do not benefit from correction and require heart and lung transplantation. Some VSDs are small and do not produce enough flow to cause trouble, at least in childhood.

Chris had a pulmonary artery banding procedure at about two or three days of life and an extremely stormy course for a very long time postop. He was in the Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital for over a year. He had a tracheostomy for much of that time as he was unable to breathe without a respirator for a year. He had intravenous feeding for well over a year. During this time he had several cardiac arrests and the staff became convinced that he would be brain damaged if he survived. Finally, after 18 months in Children’s Hospital, he went home. This had all occurred before my time. Now, 3 years later, he was being admitted for the definitive repair of his heart defect. The pulmonary band is Teflon tape and does not grow so the pulmonary stenosis, which had saved his life, was now a threat, as it did not permit adequate flow to his growing lungs. He was five years old and was joyously normal. His intellectual development, in spite of everything, was normal and he was a very calm and self-confident little kid. He was not afraid of the hospital or of us, the white coat brigade. Most nurses and staff in children’s hospitals and pediatric clinics avoid white coats preferring colorful smocks to reassure kids that we are all regular folks. The kids are not fooled but it does seem to defuse the tension, especially at first. When we would make rounds on the ward for the few days Chris was in the hospital for pre-op checks, he would go around with us. He wore his little bathrobe and sometimes carried charts for us. He was completely unafraid. I don’t know if it was because he remembered his previous experience; I didn’t think that memory would be very reassuring.

Anyway, the day of surgery came. His mother was a nervous wreck because she had come so close to losing him and here they were risking him again. I did not see much of the family on the day of surgery. His grandfather was a famous movie star, one of the biggest box office leaders of all time, and the hospital had thrown a big luncheon bash for the family as they waited. We heard about it and grumbled that they could have spent the money on a better blood bank (we were having trouble getting blood for elective cases), but no doubt they hoped for a big donation. The surgery, itself, was almost an anticlimax. The data from the original heart cath, when he was a newborn, suggested that he had almost no interventricular septum and we anticipated trouble reconstructing a new septum. As it turned out, his heart, in its growth during the past five years, had developed a good septum with a modest sized defect in the usual place. It was easy to patch and the surgery went well. The other worry with VSDs is the conduction system, the Bundle of His, which carries the electrical stimulation to the ventricles, and runs right along the edge of the defect but this was not a problem. There was no sign of heart block after the sutures were placed and tied. Postop we always took the kids straight to the Heart Room, a combination recovery room and ICU. The nurses there knew more about cardiology than I did and probably more than anyone else at Children’s below the rank of associate professor. His mother came in and stood at his bedside for a while just thankful to have him. I never saw the rest of the family although I did meet his father before he went home. He recovered quickly and completely. I had one more encounter with him about a year later.

After his recovery from the heart surgery he had another operation, this time on his leg. He had been in the hospital for so long as a baby with an IV line in his groin that his hip would not straighten out completely. A few months after the heart surgery he had another operation to release that contracture, the scar that had formed limiting his hip movement. It also went well but had been postponed until his heart was fixed. A couple of months after that procedure he was well enough to climb trees. I know that because he fell out of one of them and cut his forehead requiring several stitches. I removed the stitches in the office a couple of months after I started practice in Burbank. He recovered completely and is now an executive in the entertainment business. I have not seen him since 1972.

I don’t know what Chris’s care cost but I think it was worth it. AOL was foolish to self-insure and not buy reinsurance for catastrophic cases like Chris and Mila’s. There are ways to reform health care and to cut costs but they are not what AOL did or what Obamacare did.

Obamacare Lives !

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

UPDATE: The decision is analyzed at Powerline today with quotes for the decision.

The Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting. (To cite just one, the Act creates three separate Section 1563s. See 124 Stat. 270, 911, 912.) Several features of the Act’s passage contributed to that unfortunate reality. Congress wrote key parts of the Act behind closed doors, rather than through “the traditional legislative process.” Cannan, A Legislative History of the Affordable Care Act: How Legislative Procedure Shapes Legislative History, 105 L. Lib. J. 131, 163 (2013). And Congress passed much of the Act using a complicated budgetary procedure known as “reconciliation,” which limited opportunities for debate and amendment, and bypassed the Senate’s normal 60-vote filibuster requirement. Id., at 159–167.

Therefore, Roberts rewrote it. Nice !

Today, the Supreme Court upheld the Obamacare state exchange subsidies.

The Supreme Court has justified the contempt held for the American people by Jonathan Gruber. He was widely quoted as saying that the “stupidity of the American people “ was a feature of the Obamacare debate. This does not bother the left one whit.

Like my counterparts, I have relied heavily on Gruber’s expertise over the years and have come to know him very well. He’s served as an explainer of basic economic concepts, he’s delivered data at my request, and he’s even published articles here at the New Republic. My feelings about Gruber, in other words, are not that of a distant observer. They are, for better or worse, the views of somebody who holds him and his work in high esteem.

The New Republic is fine with him and his concepts.

It’s possible that Gruber offered informal advice along the way, particularly when it came to positions he held strongly—like his well-known and sometimes controversial preference for a strong individual mandate. Paul Starr, the Princeton sociologist and highly regarded policy expert, once called the mandate Gruber’s “baby.” He didn’t mean it charitably.

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Why Doctors Quit.

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Today, Charles Krauthammer has an excellent column on the electronic medical record. He has not been in practice for many years but he is obviously talking to other physicians. It is a subject much discussed in medical circles these days.

It’s one thing to say we need to improve quality. But what does that really mean? Defining healthcare quality can be a challenging task, but there are frameworks out there that help us better understand the concept of healthcare quality. One of these was put forth by the Institute of Medicine in their landmark report, Crossing the Quality Chasm. The report describes six domains that encompass quality. According to them, high-quality care is:

1) Safe: Avoids injuries to patients from care intended to help them
2) Equitable: Doesn’t vary because of personal characteristics
3) Patient-centered: Is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values
4) Timely: Reduces waits and potentially harmful delays
5) Efficient: Avoids waste of equipment, supplies, ideas and energy
6) Effective: Services are based on scientific knowledge to all who could benefit, and it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish

In 1994, I moved to New Hampshire and obtained a Master’s Degree in “Evaluative Clinical Sciences” to learn how to measure, and hopefully improve, medical quality. I had been working around this for years, serving on the Medicare Peer Review Organization for California and serving in several positions in organized medicine.

I spent a few years trying to work with the system, with a medical school for example, and finally gave up. A friend of mine had set up a medical group for managed care called CAPPCare, which was to be a Preferred Provider Organization when California set up “managed care.” It is now a meaningless hospital adjunct. In 1995, he told me, “Mike you are two years too early. Nobody cares about quality.” Two years later, we had lunch again and he laughed and said “You are still too years too early.”

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