At DocSpot, our mission is to connect people with the right health care by helping them navigate publicly available information. We believe the first step of that mission is to help connect people with an appropriate medical provider, and we look forward to helping people navigate other aspects of their care as the opportunities arise. We are just at the start of that mission, so we hope you will come back often to see how things are developing.
An underlying philosophy of our work is that right care means different things to different people. We also recognize that doctors are multidimensional people. So, instead of trying to determine which doctors are "better" than others, we offer a variety of filter options that individuals can apply to more quickly discover providers that fit their needs.Got questions?
We are pleased to announce the launch of a new feature that gives insight into providers' Medicare patients. Medicare released information about their beneficiaries (patients), aggregated at the provider level. For example, you can see how many Medicare patients a provider treated who are African-American or Asian-American. Or, what percentage of the Medicare patients treated by a particular provider have asthma. The information can be helpful for patients who are looking for providers who treat patients like themselves.
Medicare released the information by year. There are still many finishing touches that we would like to implement. In the meantime, please visit the "Patients" tab to see the data. If you have any suggestions on how to present the data more intuitively or helpfully, please let us know.
This week's top headline in US health policy appears to be that the current White House administration has announced that it backs the court's ruling to nullify the entirety of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), whereas previously, it suggested that some parts could be left intact, even while it challenges certain core pieces. Some are taking this announcement to mean that the administration wishes to roll back protection for patients who have pre-existing conditions, although the president has since indicated support for those protections. The New York Times reported on some of the politics of the decision. Notably, Democrats are seizing upon the moment to further amplify the importance of protecting the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps not surprisingly (given the popularity of covering patients with pre-existing conditions and how narrow some of last year's midterm elections were), some Republican politicians have dissented with the White House's announcement.
The same article noted some interesting legislation approved by a House subcommittee: prohibiting "pay for delay" (where name-brand pharmaceutical manufacturers pay a generic manufacturer for delaying selling a competitive product) and requiring that pharmaceutical manufacturers supply samples to generic manufacturers so the generic manufacturers have an easier time running clinical trials to demonstrate therapeutic equivalence. If passed, such legislation could have a meaningful impact on people's ability to afford medications.
Following a survey of the political landscape from last month, the New York Times published a follow-up, detailing the progress of the "Medicare for all" movement. In particular, the article highlighted that "Medicare for all" would prevent private insurance companies from offering primary insurance. Such a drastic measure would have wide-reaching implications for the industry. Humorously,
"Gerald Friedman, a labor economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who was close to Mr. Sanders's 2016 campaign, estimated then that it could reduce the nation's health care spending by $6 trillion over a decade, while the left-leaning Urban Institute said it might increase the overall bill by nearly $7 trillion."
Supporters of the sweeping policy change believe that removing private health insurance companies is key to reducing the administrative load of each provider group negotiating with several insurance companies. At the same time, many provider groups also favor patients with private insurance over Medicare. Regardless, it seems that as long as the Republicans have more than forty senators in Congress, Medicare for all is unlikely to be passed any time soon.
Kaiser Health News reported on some changes that insurers are experimenting with. Not all changes are good, but some experimentation can lead to major changes.
As described in Kaiser Health News' article, the North Carolina Blue Cross Blue Shield rolled out an insurance policy this year that does not include an actual network of providers, simply an agreement to pay 140% of what Medicare would pay. On the face of it, this arrangement seems to expose policyholders to an enormous amount of risk. However, this type of policy might work out reasonably for certain groups: for example, policyholders that are healthy and essentially never see a doctor, or policyholders that are picky about which providers they see and are able to pay the difference. The first group might be able to save 15% to 30% in annual premiums, but many years of savings could be wiped out by one catastrophic incident. The second group could find it more freeing to be able to select whichever provider.
Overall, these experiments are signs that the current system is inadequate for many, as well as a manifestation of the hunger that some feel in finding an alternate solution.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) stipulated that starting January 1st of this year, hospitals had to post list prices online. Many hospitals have opted to fulfill the requirement by posting what's known as their chargemaster. Kaiser Health News reports that while the online postings fulfill the requirement from CMS, the lists are largely unintelligible to the average consumer.
To be fair, the chargemasters were primarily intended to serve billing departments and not patients. Translations of the many abbreviations take much effort, and understandably, hospitals are busy. Hopefully, some enterprising firms will undertake the job of making this information more user-friendly across hospitals.