Notice to Medicare observation patients misses the mark

If you’re one of the roughly 2 million Medicare beneficiaries placed under observation each year, there’s (potentially) good news for you: You may be less vulnerable to sticker shock when you get your medical bill. But Medicare hasn’t gotten the details right just yet. In less than two months, the Notice of Observation Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility (NOTICE) Act will require hospitals nationwide to notify Medicare observation patients that they are not formally admitted as inpatients and why. …

How HIPAA Can Maintain Privacy, Enable Exchange of Electronic Health Records and Improve Patient Care at the Same Time

Nearly all hospitals and three-fourths of all doctors have gone digital, replacing paper medical records with electronic ones. For consumers, this should have meant that complete and up-to-date medical files seamlessly flow between physicians and follow patients from one doctor to the next. In reality, many health care providers don’t exchange electronic health data, in part because they misinterpret the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules as saying that it’s illegal. Some may also be playing …

Removing Barriers to Exchanging Electronic Health Records Would Help Consumers

  Over the past five years, taxpayers have doled out over $30 billion in bonus payments to push hospitals and doctors’ offices to switch from paper to electronic medical records. Now nearly all hospitals and over half of all office-based doctors have gone digital; but much of that electronic information doesn’t flow freely between health care providers because their separate software systems do not communicate — and consumers are losing out. Consumers win when electronic health records (EHR) systems talk …

New Guidelines Give Consumers Easier Access to Their Medical Records

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gives consumers the right to access their medical information. But many people still have to jump through hoops to get their medical records from reluctant health care providers.   New Guidance Prods Clinicians to Provide Patient Records Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services issued updated guidelines that will make it much easier for people to see their paper or electronic health information, including what their doctor has written about them. …

Among Older African Americans, Depression Continues to Be Under-Detected and Undertreated

The good news is that appropriate treatment can help most older adults with depression. What’s more, Medicare has recently improved its coverage for people with mental disorders. It now covers a free annual depression screening, and beneficiaries no longer have to pay more for outpatient treatment of mental illnesses than they do for physical illnesses. In addition, Medicare’s prescription drug benefit covers essentially all antidepressants used to treat people with depression. Older African Americans’ Depression Is More Likely to Go …

Is Observation Status Substituting for Hospital Readmission?

Since October 2012, the Medicare program has penalized hospitals when too many patients in traditional Medicare are re-hospitalized within a month of discharge. This policy appears to be having unintended consequences for patients in Medicare and in the commercial market. Hospitals with readmission rates above the national average now receive lower payments across-the-board from Medicare; the higher the rate of “excess” readmissions, the greater the penalty. The fines are intended to push hospitals to provide better care for their patients …