It is not only Aetna, but every major health insurer.

To: Mr. David Jones
Insurance Commissioner of California

Dear Mr. Jones:
I and many of my physician colleagues were gratified to learn in the news this week that you are opening an investigation into Aetna’s ‘prior auth’ practices. I share this little story from today, just so you know it is not only Aetna, but every major health insurer. This is a major reason why our country’s health care is the most expensive, and among the least productive in the developed world (the reverse of just a few years ago), and why U.S. life expectancy has now declined for the second year in a row. I have cc some great physician leaders that I have worked with in California.
Thanks,

Michael Strickland, MD
letmydoctorpractice.org

This is how tests were ordered 10 yrs ago:

Dr to staff: Get a Cat scan (CTPA) of the chest scheduled asap on this patient with recurrent chest pain (who called me last night with worsening pain), now coughing up small amounts of blood (which could become large amounts, at any time, until we know what is causing it), with abnormal fluid collection (pleural effusion).
Minutes later:
Staff: CT scheduled for 9 a.m. tomorrow.
Dr : Great. Next patient..

In 2018:

Tues afternoon:
Dr. to staff (above)
Wed. a.m., I haven’t heard when scheduled. Ask staff. “Hasn’t been scheduled yet. Anthem says it will take a couple of days for them to decide if this test is necessary.” (Note that if the patient gets CT done today and we find a problem, we still have time to do something about it. If Anthem approves it for Friday at 4 pm, there will likely be nothing we can do until Monday..assuming it has not become an emergency, during the delay.)
I call Anthem at 888-224-4902. Get transfer to “provider svcs” 800-345-4344. Get told I need to hang up and call ‘peer to peer line’ at 866-876-3184.

When I call, get voice mail that says “leave your information, and someone will get back to you WITHIN 30 DAYS” !!!!! (I left some information alright).

Call 1st no. back, tell them I want this test approved NOW, or get a Dr. or RN on the phone with me now, or I will send the patient to the ER, and Anthem can pay $5000 to get this done. (Then I remember, the patient has a $12,000 deductible. So, why is Anthem even involved?? “Oh, we still have to approve.”) An RN comes on the line. After a few moments, she says, “Well, a ‘case’ hasn’t been started yet. Your staff will need to call 800-554-0580.” I thank her for her help, tell her this is why I practice direct patient care and do not accept insurance, and ask if she’s seen the news this week that the state of California is investigating Anthem (oops, Aetna. Same thing) over its prior authorization practices.

Give staff above no. She calls and gets CT scan “approved”.

I spent 25 min total on phone w Anthem, plus 15 min w patient and staff, plus documenting (in case of bad outcome, d/t delay), i.e. about one hour of my (doctor’s) time, and staff tells me she spent about an hour on this as well, so 2 hours of the clinic’s time to get “approval” for a test that any 4th year med student would immediately know needs done, and needs done now. And 2 hours we did not do anything remotely resembling anything productive to patient care.

If you wonder why you can’t get into your doctor for days or weeks, and why it costs a fortune, look no further. This happens all day, every day, in every doctor’s office across America.

Next patient…never mind, I’m going to take an aspirin and lie down for a few minutes.

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MOC: This Abuse Has to End NOW

Dr. Ken Lee weighs in on KevinMD blog post “The Real Cost of MOC is Stunning” :

This profession is too used to abuse . It begins in pre-med, medical school and our training as “students” where our US labor rights are violated. Even college athletes have won a Federal case to get classified as employees of the colleges that were using them as “students”.

We have to influence our colleagues to stop swallowing each cup of poison they want us to drink. The costs of MOC for Int Med exceeds what I get paid from any contract I have with United, Aetna or Cigna, making the MOC a huge loss anyway you look at it. The summer months are supposed to be slow for medical care but I was seeing 23 patients a day with another 90 minutes of computer work at night to just do the documentation, MU, PQRS etc.

The only way I could do MOC is to not sleep or sacrifice my family time which my wife says will never happen again as she has seen hundreds of hours lost in the past due to the re-certification exams. I have lost entire weeks of my life for this certification scam.

The human cost of MOC is not fully exposed and must be. The hundreds of hours of our scarce free time is lost for trivial pursuit that we all know does NOT improve patient care ( 2 JAMA studies 2014 prove this ) . The psychological toll of fear , potential loss of income and actual loss of money on this coercion is glossed over, as if we were all CEOs making $4million a year at a non-profit hospital.

I never see written interviews of the families who suffer the absence of a parent who is hostage to recertification /MOC; what does it do to them? This abuse has to end now . People call us doctor which seems to elevate us but in reality we have become almost slaves. One of my long times friends finally got his BA degree and he runs a hospital physician system that employs 22 MD/DOs ; they have to answer to him . So much for the doctor title.

Ken Lee , Internal Medicine, private practice.

Deadline soon for opting out of Aetna settlement

Guest post from AAPS:

When physicians received a booklet in the mail containing notice of a class-action settlement with Aetna, many of us tossed it in the garbage.

We have posted a copy online for you here:
http://aapsonline.org/judicial/aetna-terms.pdf.

Shockingly, this settlement binds physicians unless they affirmatively opt out of it. This settlement is a fantastic deal for … Aetna, as it gets out of perhaps billions of dollars in claims by paying only a small pittance on what it owes.  How much does Aetna owe you?  Most physicians can kiss their claims against Aetna goodbye if they do nothing with respect to this notice of settlement.

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