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The Friday Pulse Check
Good morning and happy Friday, December 16, 2022. Welcome to the Friday Pulse Check.
In the news:
A dentist in California has paid $23,000 to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to settle claims he revealed protected health information about patients in response to negative Yelp reviews. Brandon Au, DDS revealed full names as well as information about dental visits and insurance when responding to negative reviews even though the reviewers had not originally mentioned this information themselves. His dental practice, New Vision Dental in South Pasadena and Glendora, has also agreed to a two-year corrective action plan with the OCR. Read more from HHS.
Bonus: The practice has a video on their website called “The Truth About Our Yelp Score.” I have never seen a dentist office try harder to defend their Yelp score, although I should note the video is from 2013, a time when Yelp was a bit more relevant.
Jeff Bezos’ and Bill Gates’ respective investment organizations have announced that they are investing in Synchron, the endovascular brain-computer interface company. Bezos Expeditions and Gates Frontier were mentioned in an announcement with several other investment companies and organizations; combined they are providing $75 million for this project. The Synchron Switch™ brain-computer interface is implanted in the blood vessel on the surface of the motor cortex of the brain via the jugular vein, through a minimally-invasive endovascular procedure. Once implanted, it is designed to detect and wirelessly transmit motor intent out of the brain, restoring a capability for severely paralyzed patients to control personal devices with hands-free point-and-click. Read more from Business Wire.
Dr. Marc Siegel, whom SiriusXM Doctor Radio listeners and FOX News watchers will recognize, wrote a very good opinion piece in The Hill this week criticizing those who over-exaggerate the side-effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. (Maybe he listens to our podcast?) He pointed out that the Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System is wildly misunderstood, analyses on results from clinical studies are inaccurate, and personal anecdotes rule the day. Dr. Siegel closes with a very important reminder, “Vaccines are our greatest preventive public health tool after clean water. They need to be treated with the respect and compliance that they have earned.” Read more in The Hill.
This week on the FLATLINING Podcast, Ron and I discussed a very important issue providers and hospitals are facing as we head into 2023: what will Medicare reimbursement be like in 2023?
It is a good question because Congress has yet to pass a spending bill. Normally, the cuts to Medicare are removed (no one wants to be the “former Senator” from the state they are from), but in this instance, the 4.5% cut is still on the table.
As we discussed in the program, not only will this affect physician salaries, it will also negatively impact patient care. Even though the rise in inflation is slowing, labor costs continue to remain high and that affects doctors' offices and hospitals.
If Medicare is cut, that will (obviously) materially impact the reimbursement for physician services performed for Medicare patients. It will also materially impact reimbursement for services for patients with commercial insurance where that contract between the payor and provider is based on “Current Year” or “Floating” Medicare.
Several physician organizations, including the American Medical Association, have written to members of Congress demanding they stop the cut to Medicare and that they stop creating this problem every year. One writer in called it “Groundhog Day,” referencing the 1993 film starring Bill Murray.
This proposed cut is predictable; it happens every year. Hopefully, Congress will get its act together and stop it (like they have in the past) and stop toying with physician reimbursement, particularly when we’re on the brink of a recession.
The FLATLINING Podcast is now available on TuneIn!
According to Ukraine’s Health Ministry, over $1 billion is needed to rebuild their hospitals and health system after continued bombing by the Russians. One-hundred and forty-four medical facilities have been destroyed and over a thousand have been damaged. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week it would be allocating $17 million to helping rehabilitate Ukraine’s health system. Read more from Ukrainian News.
If you happen to be a patient in Virginia and are in the hospital, it is possible you won’t see Coca-Cola or Pepsi on the beverage menu. At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health hospitals, operated by Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health, they are only allowing clear sodas (or pops if you live in the Midwest like I do) for their patients. In an email statement to the News Tribune, the hospital system said, “Based on CommonSpirit Health’s new food and nutrition guidelines and moving forward, patient floor stock beverages now only include water, tea and coffee (caffeinated and decaf), milk (dairy and non-dairy), and juices (regular and sugar-free). Sodas are no longer provided in floor stock to patients, with the exception of clear sodas such as Sprite, ginger ale and diet ginger ale.” The reasoning seems to be about nutrition, however, there are still thirty-three grams of sugar in Sprite and thirty-two grams in ginger ale; compare that to the thirty-nine grams in Coca-Cola. Unfortunately, further questions were not asked by the News Tribune. Read more in the News Tribune.
Have a good weekend,