Permanent Fix for Medicare Payments to Doctors Moves to Obama

Late on April 14, the U.S. Senate acted to repeal an 18-year-old law that would have slashed Medicare payments to doctors by 21 percent — a measure that has prompted many doctors to flee Medicare. The repeal provides a permanent solution to a problem that has plagued the Medicare system for years. Doctors never knew whether the payments they received for treating Medicare beneficiaries would suddenly drop, making it difficult for them to make long-term business plans and causing some …

Are Older Adults Being Overtreated for Diabetes?

Older patients are not the same as younger patients. You’d think this was obvious, yet doctors often use a one-size-fits-all approach to prescribing treatment that can put their older patients at risk. The latest example of this: another study showing that patients 65 or older with diabetes may be overtreated by doctors who too aggressively try to control blood sugar levels, regardless of their patients’ other health problems. The new study, by Yale researchers, analyzed a decade of data on 1,288 …

So Why Are Waiting Room Magazines So Old?

Ever wonder why the magazines in your doctor’s waiting room are so out of date? One office I was in had a Golf Digest from 2012. Are our docs just trying to bore us to death? Do they put out only old magazines and keep the new ones for themselves? Or is something else going on? New Zealand doctor Bruce Arroll kept getting complaints about the magazines in his general practice office, so he and a colleague decided to find …

When Is ‘No Treatment’ the Best Treatment?

The swift, lethal nature of brain cancer — and the terrible decisions it forces families to face — has been in the news recently, with three of its victims forcing us to think about choices we hope we never have to make. There was, of course, the well-publicized death of Brittany Maynard, 29, diagnosed with the most common and deadly form of brain cancer — glioblastoma. Doctors don’t know what causes these insidious growths, according to the National Brain Tumor …

Medicare Overpays $6.7 Billion for Patient Evaluation Services

Medicare spent $6.7 billion too much in 2010 by “inappropriately” paying claims from physicians who had submitted the wrong billing codes or no documentation at all for certain services, according to a new report from the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Although that amount was a small fraction of Medicare’s total spending of more than $525 billion in 2010, it still added up to 21 percent of what Medicare paid for all “evaluation …

Groundhog Day for Medicare ‘Doc Fix’

Another year, another last-minute “doc fix” by Congress. Am I the only one starting to feel a little like Bill Murray in the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day? On March 31, just one day before Medicare payments to doctors would have been slashed by 24 percent, Congress approved a short-term patch to delay the payment cuts for another year. This is the 17th time in 11 years that Congress has had to delay the Medicare reimbursement cuts created by SGR (the …