Some relief from 4.5% Medicare cut
Plus a song for you if you're stuck at the airport
Good morning and happy Friday, that is unless you’re in the midst of traveling. If that is you, I hope you have a better one. This is the Friday Pulse Check from FLATLINING and Fulcrum Strategies.
In the news:
New omnibus bill relieves some of the Medicare cuts
The House of Representatives is currently debating and will vote on an omnibus spending bill to keep the government open next year. Included is some relief to the nearly 4.5% cut to Medicare reimbursement. It cuts physician reimbursement by 2% (across the board) in 2023 and by about 3% in 2024. The American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack said they are “pleased” the reimbursement cuts were staved off. President Biden needs to sign the spending bill by 11:59pm tonight to avert a partial government shutdown. Read more in Axios and Healthcare Finance.
Cold weather is dangerous, and emergency responders are prepared
As many of us woke up this morning to see that parts of the US are colder than Mars, emergency responders have been working around the clock to make sure that people can get to the hospital safely in the event of an emergency. Many ambulance services have seen sharp increases in the number of cold weather related calls they receive. MedStar in Fort Worth, Texas says that it only takes minutes to have serious situation. Read more from FOX 4 (KDFW).
US life expectancy drops
Since cold weather and travel delays ran the news day yesterday (and will again today), this story flew in under the radar. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention release new life expectancy numbers that are based on data from 2021. Americans born in 2021 are expected to live 76.4 years, down from a peak of 78.8 in 2019. The CDC says COVID-19 and drug overdoses are the leading culprits. Read more in BBC News via Yahoo! and in the Washington Post 🔒.
Other articles of interest:
Johnson&Johnson (JNJ 0.00) acquires medtech company Abiomend – Business Wire
Senators call on Kaiser to end mental health workers strike – Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI)
Centene purchases nearly three dozen practices in London; will serve as gateway to NHS – Kaiser Health News
What we can learn from China’s COVID-19 lockdowns – Holman W. Jenkins Jr. via the Wall Street Journal 🔒
What is ahead in the “tripledemic” – The New York Times 🔒
🔒 = Potential paywall
Thank you for a great year
As I mentioned at the beginning of our podcast this week, we have had a great first year of FLATLINING. Ron and I and the excellent team at Fulcrum Strategies would like to thank our clients and readers for continuing to make our organization the best in the business.
When we started FLATLINING and the FLATLINING Podcast this year, we wanted to provide clear analysis on the healthcare issues that matter most, in a way that doctors and patients alike can understand. We’ve done that through our columns, this newsletter, and our podcast.
It is true that legacy business networks like CNBC or Bloomberg provide good news coverage about the status of big players in the healthcare game like Elevance (ELV 0.00) (formerly Anthem) or CVS Health (CVS 0.00) or UnitedHealthcare (UNH 0.00) and how these companies are doing regarding their financials. In all their coverage, however, they neglect to mention how that bottom line actually affects patients in physicians. We provide you with that analysis.
Becker’s Hospital Review and Kaiser Health News are great at providing updates about hospital systems and new, government health equity programs, but again fail to explain how that changes your practice. We do.
Earlier this year, we explained why you should take note that BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi is suing a university hospital system for defamation. That hospital terminated BCBS MS and then reminded the patients of who makes the money in healthcare.
When Bright Health Group (BHG 0.00) went under, we explained how you should handle their patients now and what to do about any outstanding claims you have. Tell the patients they need to find a new insurer and don’t wait to file those claims.
While the organizations I mentioned above are great resources to find information, we provide what they cannot: a shared experience. Fulcrum Strategies tirelessly works as physician advocates (and by extension patient advocates) to make sure that healthcare gets done and gets done well.
Since we have worked with hundreds of providers across the country, we deeply understand the economic challenges you and your practices are facing. That is why we spend so much time covering payor issues, the economy, and potential cuts to Medicare reimbursement. We understand how it affects you.
Because you have seen the value in our analysis, you have subscribed and we are very appreciative that you have done so. Thank you for making FLATLINING and the FLATLINING Podcast the best source of provider-oriented healthcare analysis that can be found.
As we prepare for Year 2, I ask (humbly) that you consider sharing this newsletter and website with your family and friends as you travel home for the holidays and I ask that as you return to the office, you share it with your co-workers. We promise that they won’t regret subscribing.
We are excited for Year 2 and the content that we are going to bring you. We have some great, new things we are going to bring to FLATLINING and the FLATLINING Podcast. Unfortunately, I cannot say much more than that on it now, but we know you are going to love it. So why keep it all to yourself? Consider sharing it.
Thank you again for a great first year and we hope you enjoy the next one.
The Best of 2022
Because so many of you have subscribed and read our emails and listen to our podcast religiously, we are excited to share with you what the most listened-to topics were on our podcast this year. If you haven’t subscribed on your favorite platform, now is a good time to do so.
This week we shared the third and fourth most listened-to segments. At number four was our discussion on Dr. Mercola. I know that all of our physician readers have at some point encountered a patient who asked a question about the kinds of conspiracies that he promotes. Earlier this year, he wrote an opinion piece in the Epoch Times in which he stretched COVID-19 vaccine reaction data and simply made up “facts” about how numbers were calculated. It isn’t the first time he has done something like this.
At number three was our discussion on healthcare being a “fact-free zone.” When politicians and voters talk about healthcare, they talk about it from such a high level that it doesn’t even really mean anything. “Obamacare is bad.” “Abortion should be legal.” “Doctors make too much money.” Since we never get any deeper than this, it is hard to argue that healthcare and healthcare policy actually matters in elections.
These two topics were revisited this week in our first Best of 2022 episode on the FLATLINING Podcast. Perhaps sharing this and next week’s episode with a new listener is a good bet as it gives a good sample of the kinds of topics we discuss. Also, it’s a good, inexpensive Christmas gift.
Next week we’ll be featuring the top two most listened-to segments from the year so be sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts beforehand!
Subscribe to the FLATLINING Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the iHeartRadio app, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Pandora, TuneIn, and Audible.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, I have continued to provide healthcare-related news items in this section of the newsletter. I intend to do that in the next year. My educational background is in theology and political science, with an emphasis on international relations and peace theory and so I take these types of events seriously.
I understand the political argument that some are making now that we (the federal government/taxpayers) are spending too much money on aiding Ukraine while remaining “outside” of the conflict. But keep in mind that while some of that money has gone in the form of military aid, much of it has also been humanitarian.
As I have reported here several times, the Ukrainian health system is in shambles thanks in part to indiscriminate (and illicit) bombing by the Russians. When Ukrainian President Vodolomyr Zelensky addressed a joint session of Congress this week, he reminded lawmakers that the money they are sending is not simply a charity package but an investment.
When the aid we send goes to fixing and rebuilding hospitals in war-torn areas, we have the opportunity to help modernize their systems and improve global public health. All of the disease scares we have had in the US in recent years (Zika, Ebola, COVID-19) have come from other countries, so by investing in public health elsewhere, we can improve ours here in the US at the same time.
Here is President Zelensky’s full address:
Similar to the Final Thought segment on the podcast, I introduced this section to help lighten the mood and I hope I can do that for you today.
If you’re one of the millions of travelers experiencing delays or cancellations at the nation’s airports, there’s a song for you. Nick Lowe’s “Christmas at the Airport” deals with all of the things you might have experienced yesterday or today. As I’m sure our radiology readers will agree, however, I do not recommend getting your standing X-ray orders completed there.
Have a very safe, warm, and Merry Christmas and I will speak with you in the New Year.