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Health Management Technology News
May 20, 2014

In this issue:

 New Obama aide to oversee healthcare

 A different way of thinking about healthcare

 Report: 230,000 Iowans still lack healthcare coverage

 Medical school speaker says ignore ‘the doom and gloom about the future of healthcare’

 3-hospital takeover by Partners ok’d

 The smarter way to provide healthcare for the poor

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New Obama aide to oversee healthcare

Add the name Kristie Canegallo to the list of low-profile people with high-responsibility jobs in Washington.

President Obama has appointed Canegallo as a new deputy chief of staff with a portfolio that includes oversight over the new and politically challenging health care law.

Canegallo inherits the health care account from Phil Schiliro, who is leaving the White House this month.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said the administration is seeking to institutionalize some of the lessons it has learned from major events, including last year's botched rollout of the health care plan.

"Given our experience with, we have determined we need more senior-level focus on implementation and execution," McDonough said in a statement.

Read the full article from USA Today here

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A different way of thinking about healthcare

A Charleston, South Carolina man who thought he had pretty good health insurance may miss work today, as he has several times already this year, because of a hernia. He’s in constant pain and needs surgery, but he has been postponing it. It’s not because he’s afraid of hospitals or going under the knife. It’s because he can’t afford the deductible.

I heard this story last week from a relative of his, Elizabeth May, who because she lives a few miles north of the U.S.-Canadian border has never faced such a dilemma. May was astonished to learn that many Americans, her cousin included, regularly postpone needed care because their insurance plans require paying several thousand dollars out of their own pockets before their coverage kicks in.

Of course, Elizabeth May is not just some ordinary Canadian. She is a Member of Parliament representing Vancouver Island in British Columbia and leader of the Green Party. I met with her and several other so-called MPs last Wednesday in Ottawa at the request of the Canadian Health Coalition, a group that wants to maintain and expand the country’s publicly funded, universal access health care system.

May was not the only MP to share stories about Americans they’ve met who have fallen through the cracks of a system that fails to provide affordable health care to its citizens. Dr. Hedy Fry of Vancouver related the stories of three people who told California lawmakers at a hearing several years back that they had become “uninsurable” in the eyes of insurance companies after a major illness. Dr. Fry, the Liberal Party’s lead expert on health care, also testified at that hearing. She had been invited to explain the Canadian single-payer system, which California lawmakers were considering. Her voice cracked as she recalled the dire straits those people found themselves in.

Dr. Fry’s testimony clearly resonated. Legislators in Sacramento sent then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger two bills that would establish a single payer system in the California — in 2006 and 2008 — but Schwarzenegger vetoed both, calling them “socialized medicine.”

Read the full article from The Center for Public Integrity here

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Report: 230,000 Iowans still lack healthcare coverage

The Affordable Care Act's effects have yet to be seen at Iowa's free clinics, where uninsured people continue to line up for care five months after the federal law's main provisions took effect.

The law's programs have provided new health insurance coverage to tens of thousands of Iowans, and improved coverage to 50,000 others who had skimpy benefits. State leaders say they have enrolled more people into public insurance plans than they expected to by now.

But a new report estimates about three-quarters of Iowans who lacked health insurance last year remain uninsured.

Reinna Waseskuk is among them. She drove a half hour from Mitchellville recently to seek care for flu-like symptoms at the Jim Ellefson Free Medical Clinic on Des Moines' east side. Waseskuk, an assistant manager at a convenience store, has been offered insurance by her employer but would have to pay $111 every two weeks for her part of the premium.

"I can't afford that," she said. "There's no way on Earth."

Waseskuk, 49, has heard that most Americans are required to have health insurance this year or pay a penalty equal to 1 percent of their income. She laughed ruefully at that prospect. "I don't care. They can fight me for it," she said.

She bristled at the new requirement to obtain insurance. "If we could afford it, do you think we'd be standing out here?" she said, nodding at a half-dozen others in line on the sidewalk, waiting for the free clinic to hold one of its twice-a-week sessions.

Read the full article from The Des Moines Register here

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Medical school speaker says ignore ‘the doom and gloom about the future of healthcare’

The president of a D.C. pediatric hospital spoke to graduates of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences as they became doctors Sunday.

Kurt Newman, who is also the chief executive officer of Children’s National Medical Center, has more than 30 years of experience as a surgeon. Here are the four top takeaways from his speech:

1. This is a time for optimism

The Affordable Care Act aside, Newman said doctors in the Class of 2014 should stay positive. He cited GW’s healing clinic as an example of innovative ideas in medicine right now.

“Despite some of the headlines that you may see, which focus on the doom and gloom about the future of health care, the commitment and dedication to learning medicine seems to be, to me, at an all time high,” Newman said.

Newman spoke about the effects of this perspective both globally, “from emergency medicine in Asia to cancer patients in the Middle East”, and across D.C.

“As I’ve visited our inner-city clinics, whether it’s in Anacostia or Prince George County, where the children face very difficult challenges, the the medical students and residents I see working at these places are fired up,” he said.

2. When there is change, there is opportunity.

Newman also asked students to improve the system.

“When the dust is up, like it is now, people’s minds are open and creativity and innovation can come to a core,” he said. “That scares some people, people who would rather things stay the same way.”

Read the full blog entry from The GW Hatchet

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3-hospital takeover by Partners ok’d

A court-appointed monitor will closely watch Partners HealthCare System’s actions for the next decade as part of a settlement announced Monday between Attorney General Martha Coakley and Massachusetts’ largest health care company.

The preliminary agreement resolves a three-year investigation into allegedly anticompetitive behavior by Partners, over which Coakley made clear she was prepared to sue the organization. It allows Partners to complete its long-planned acquisition of three community hospitals in Eastern Massachusetts, in return for accepting limits on expansion and prices for the next five to 10 years.

Coakley told reporters that although Partners is world-renowned for its quality medical care, its high prices have burdened families and businesses, drained taxpayers, and hurt community hospitals.

“I determined at the beginning of this process that the Partners transactions could only proceed if we obtained a global set of remedies to address the Partners problem,’’ she said, referring to the company’s alleged use of its market power and brand name to charge more than many of its competitors.

The agreement, Coakley said, moves her office “from documenting this problem to solving it.’’

Dr. Gary Gottlieb, Partners’ chief executive, said that operating under the new restrictions “is going to be a challenge for us.” But he said the agreement will allow the organization to better coordinate care for patients between doctors’ offices, community hospitals, and academic medical centers, through shared electronic medical records and other investments in the new Partners hospitals:

South Shore, in Weymouth; Hallmark Health System’s Lawrence Memorial, in Medford; and Melrose-Wakefield.

Read the full article from The Boston Globe

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The smarter way to provide healthcare for the poor

From the beginning of my tenure as governor in 2013, we have been saying no to ObamaCare in Indiana. We refused to set up a state-based exchange, and we have said we will not expand traditional Medicaid. We have a better alternative in a program that offers Indiana's working poor the chance to get insurance and control their own health care.

Medicaid is not a program we need to expand. It is a program we need to change. Nobly created 50 years ago to help the poor and those with disabilities get quality health care, Medicaid has morphed into a bureaucratic and fiscal monstrosity that does less to help low-income people than its advocates claim. As a study in Oregon showed last year, the 2008 expansion of Medicaid to 10,000 more people increased emergency-room use and produced health outcomes that were no better than for those who remained uninsured. Other studies have shown similar results.

Yet there are still some 350,000 low-income working people in Indiana who lack access to the quality health insurance that better-off Hoosiers enjoy. We want to change Medicaid based on what we know improves health and lowers costs. So six years ago Indiana became the first state to successfully create a consumer-driven health plan to expand coverage to members of this uninsured population.

Read the full article entry from The Wall Street Journal here

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May 2014  HMT digital book

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Seven Strategies to Improve Patient Satisfaction

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