Shenanigans, Larceny, And Fraud Define The Corporate Practice of Medicine

Bob Campbell, MD, co-founder of Physicians Against Drug Shortages writes in:

I have been gathering a lot of information for a “Corporate Practice of Medicine” project. Not sure what will come of it if anything but some of the shenanigans are very harmful at times. At other times just simple larceny.

The federal court in Philadelphia has issued a new decision in Aetna v. Mednax/Pediatrix Medical Group, 2018 WL 5264310 (E.D. Pa. 2018) involving fraud allegations asserted by Aetna against Mednax, a pediatric private equity firm.

The federal court held that Aetna’s allegations regarding Mednax’ alleged fraud upcoding scheme could proceed in litigation. Aetna alleged that Mednax routinely listed CPT codes that exaggerated the care needed and performed by designating infants as being sicker than they truly were so that it appeared as if the infants required more intensive treatment than was truly the case. This process allowed Mednax to submit inflated bills to Aetna so that Aetna would reimburse Mednax for more money than was justified.

Aetna also alleged the upcoding scheme permeated Mednax’ operations. Mednax trained and required physicians to engage in upcoding and encouraged physicians to perform unnecessary services to support higher billing rates. Mednax also sometimes inflated the codes itself above the level indicated by the physicians before submitting the claim forms. Aetna obtained evidence from former employees of Mednax that were aware of the upcoding scheme.

The court ultimately held that the specific types of upcoding that allegedly occurred, such as listing an infant as requiring critical care rather than general hospital care, sufficiently established the legal basis for fraud.

The federal court also allowed the litigation against the private equity firm controlling pediatric/neonatal intensive care physicians to proceed far beyond the 2-year statute of limitations based upon the “continuing fraud violation doctrine.”

I just wanted to keep you apprised of additional developments in the fraud realm in the context of private equity firms and some of the concerns raised about driving profits improperly. This is literally in your backyard, but also involves an alleged nationwide scheme.

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You are either FOR Killer GPO PBM Kickbacks or Against Them

Bob Campbell, MD, co-founder of Physicians Against Drug Shortages writes:

Want to introduce an element of competition into healthcare? Ending the GPO/PBM kickbacks is the best place to start. Low hanging fruit and no room for compromise. You are either FOR sole source pay to play inflationary kickbacks or against.

So far since Trumps rumored new introduction of barriers to the kickbacks have been “rumored” to be “possibly written for possible introduction “ as new HHS rules Sen Warren and Hatch and Congressman Walden have emerged to keep the kickbacks in place and unfettered by HHS. They have not seen the rumored rules but if the rules might interfere with the essential kickbacks then the rules must never be enforced. Not good for America. Senators Toomey and Casey of Pennsylvania are both long time defenders of pay to play kickbacks. Pennsylvania Senate campaigns are very expensive and the PBM GPO cartels are very generous to supporters. Remember Trump can only erect barriers to access to the safe harbor. Congress made kickbacks and racketeering legal for GPOs and PBMs with the safe harbor law. Only Congress can make pay to play payola illegal again. That is an enduring solution. Trump cannot do that. Congress can.

A bill that is written, reviewed polished, and ready to go for any courageous Member of Congress. One version for the House and one for the Senate. President Trump says not one person in Congress is capable enough to take action on this matter. Is anyone willing to take him up on his challenge? All we need is a Healthcare Hero.  How about 100 new generic medication manufacturing plants with 200 jobs at each plant all in the state that leads the way. High paying clean manufacturing jobs that will stay busy throughout economic boom and bust cycles. Hundreds more just like it across the country, but the state of the Member of Congress who will introduce the bill gets first dibs.

A capital investment frenzy occurs if this bill passes. We need chemotherapy, saline, potassium chloride, potassium phosphate calcium carbonate, calcium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, epinephrine,ephedrine, norepinephrine, dopamine dobutamine, glucose, nitroglycerin, cardiac surgical drugs, antibiotics, obstetric medications, pediatric seizure medications and hundreds more.

I need drugs to paralyze people and unparalyze them. I need drugs to increase blood pressure and increase heart rates when they are too low. I need drugs to decrease blood pressure that is too high and slow down heart rates that are too high. Right now using smoke and mirrors. We should postpone all cardiac surgery until the Unsafe Safe Harbor is repealed. Right now we have Fake Anesthesia.

Trust me that is way more dangerous than Fake News. No more Fake Solutions from politicians for explosive healthcare costs and drug shortages. Exclusive Pay to Play Market Allocation Contracts is all that is keeping American companies from lowering costs for drugs and ending drug shortages. All contracts are written by an unnecessary extra layer of Middlemen inserted into the healthcare supply chain with a uniquely powerful ability to demand kickbacks from manufacturers to permit them to make lifesaving medications and medical devices for Americans who need healthcare. Drug Shortages never had to happen and can be ended. Healthcare Kickbacks never had to happen and can be ended.

Permission Denied

Friend of IP4PI Gene Uzawa Dorio, M.D. writes in:

I received a phone call from a hospital case manager that my patient did not meet criteria for further admission and should be discharged. Unfortunately, the patient was just removed from a breathing machine, and was still in the ICU for sepsis.

There are several criteria used by hospitals guiding whether a patient should be admitted or discharged. Who establishes these criteria? Hospitals of course, with evidence-based bias to divert money into their pockets.

This conspiracy by business people has been detrimental to the quality of healthcare the American people receive when hospitalization is required.

With almost 40 years of practice and experience, I remain up to date on how to provide scientific evidence-based care to patients. Unfortunately, I now have to ask permission for a patient to be admitted, have certain testing and procedures, and remain in the hospital setting.

Asking for permission from those in authority who ultimately benefit from denial is not only intuitively wrong, but crosses the boundary of moral and ethical sense.

It also violates the Hippocratic Oath I have taken, and reminds me they have only taken an oath to benefit themselves.

Comments: http://scvphysicianreport.com/2018/07/01/doctors-diary-july-1-2018-permission-denied/ Hit “Home” for past snippets.

Is the hysteria about health insurance covering #pre-existing medical conditions #FakeNews?

Yes. The media hysteria that Republicans want to deny healthcare to Americans with pre-existing health conditions is #FakeNews. And here’s why:

ACA changed the health insurance industry from individual rating to community rating. This is a chief reason premiums have doubled since 2010. With individual rating, a healthy non-smoker pays less than someone that is an unhealthy smoker with cancer; rightfully so. With community rating under ACA, everyone’s insurance costs go up because the unhealthy smokers are often not paying a rate proportionate to the costs they are likely to impose on the system; unfair from a self maintenance perspective. Although ACA purportedly allows the imposition of a “smoker’s penalty” it is not required and a number of states (including California and New York) prohibit higher rates for smokers.

Then came the liberal social justice argument of what shall we do with those that are unhealthy smokers with cancer? The answer that had worked previously to Obamacare were risk pools. People with risk, just like bad drivers with extensive crashes, were assigned to companies to except the risk. ACA Obamacare did away with the risk pools and now everyone is considered a high risk and expensive. From the quality and price perspective, it seems fair to charge everybody the same. From the perspective of self-respect and taking care of oneself, it is completely unfair to rate people in this way.

The latest hysteria on pre-existing insurance coverage is indeed a political strawman argument, not a real issue..

Ask your US Congress Rep to Support Transparency Bill HR 4808

Please take the action requested from our friends at AID:

Lend Your Voice to US Transparency Bill 

Transparency in health-care pricing is one of AID’s core missions. A new bipartisan bill circulating in Congress would go a long way toward that goal if passed. We are asking for your help in encouraging members of congress to support HR 4808.

Executive Director Marni Jameson Carey sent a version of the letter below to several U.S. congressional leaders this week. We encourage you to do the same. Here is a word doc for you to personalize and send to your representative and senator.

Dear (NAME OF REP. OR SEN.): Continue reading

Can a Former Pharma Insider Solve Sky High Rx Costs?

HHS Secretary Alex Azar talked a good game in a Rose Garden ceremony and subsequent press conference—held Friday, May 11—on Trump Administration efforts to lower prescription drug costs for American patients.

Azar is, of course, a former executive of Eli Lilly. Can he be trusted to champion the interests of everyday Americans?

We will soon find out.  President Trump stated that Sec. Azar’s insider knowledge about the complex schemes to raise prices, perpetrated by industry middlemen, is exactly what makes him the right person for the job.

Watch the video of the Rose Garden Ceremony:

Although groups like Physicians Against Drug Shortages have been sounding the alarm for years, industry-led smoke and mirrors have, until recently, largely flown under the radar of the main-stream-media. Thankfully, respected outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Washington Times are now beginning to shine needed light on this malfeasance.

As these articles explain, a safe harbor to Medicare anti-kickback law is the major policy failure enabling the bad actors to line their pockets by driving up costs. The safe harbor legalizes kickbacks paid by manufacturers to Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) and their cousins-in-crime Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs).

TownHall.com reports: Repealing the GPO/PBM safe harbor to Medicare anti-kickback law “would open the drug and medical supply segment of healthcare to free market competition and foster innovation. In addition, it would result in cost reductions estimated at $100 billion [actually more like $200 billion], including savings for the Medicare and Medicaid programs.”

Congress initially enacted the GPO safe harbor in 1986. Then in 1987 Congress reaffirmed the measure, instructed HHS to implant the the safe harbor into regulation, and granted HHS authority to create additional safe harbors. In 2003 HHS OIG issued guidance clearing the way for PBMs to piggyback on the GPO safe harbor. Such guidance could theoretically be revised or rescinded by the HHS Secretary, without needing action by Congress.

And in their remarks today, both Trump and Azar mentioned that they will be looking at reining in such abusive practices.

Later in the press room, Azar explained that there are perverse incentives at play: “These big price increases are actually a good deal for pharmacy benefit managers, who are supposed to keep prices down.”

Video of White House Press Conference With Sec. Azar:

What is HHS going to do? They put out a 44-page blueprint of their plan:

https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/AmericanPatientsFirst.pdf

One step HHS announced it will implement immediately is a prohibition of Part D gag clauses, “preventing pharmacists’ telling patients when they could pay less out-of-pocket by not using insurance.”

Great words but let’s hope HHS doesn’t stop there. The blueprint is less clear about other action HHS will take related to PBMs, although it states HHS is considering:  “Measures to restrict the use of rebates, including revisiting the safe harbor under the Anti-Kickback statute for drug rebate.”

Rebates? Why does CMS use that euphemism? They are not rebates, they are legalized kickbacks.  Furthermore, rebates do not go to the patients, they flow to the PBM and insurance companies.

Unfortunately, HHS has a poor track record when it comes to using it’s existing authority to stop PBM abuse. The Government Accountability Office reports: “since 2004, [HHS] has not routinely exercised its authority to request and review disclosures” that PBMs are required to make available to comply with the safe harbor.

HHS promises there will be an opportunity for the public to comment through a “Request for Information.”

HHS appears to be asking the right questions, including:

“Do PBM rebates and fees based on the percentage of the list price create an incentive to favor higher list prices (and the potential for higher rebates) rather than lower prices?”

and

“Should PBMs be obligated to act solely in the interest of the entity for whom they are managing pharmaceutical benefits? Should PBMs be forbidden from receiving any payment or remuneration from manufacturers, and should PBM contracts be forbidden from including rebates or fees calculated as a percentage of list prices? What effect would imposing this fiduciary duty on PBMs on behalf of the ultimate payer (i.e.,
consumers) have on PBMs’ ability to negotiate drug prices?”

When details become available about the comment opportunity we will ask that all patients and doctors demand that HHS take strong action to stop the PBM and GPO kickbacks.

Ultimately, as Trump stated in his comments, Congress will need to do it’s part in concert with administration actions.  One priority for Congress must be to repeal the GPO/PBM safe harbor and end legalized kickbacks.

In the meantime HHS can lead the way to educate Americans on how such repeal will save $200 billion dollars/year and prevent dangerous drug shortages.

Americans are depending on you to do the right thing, Secretary Azar.