out

For the Daily Prompt: talisman.

What an interesting word. Talisman. What makes me feel safe? Where do I feel most safe, most loved, most joy?

Outdoors. Outside. With the birds, the deer, the trees. I am safest in the forest, away from people.

The latest news regarding Facebook and apps certainly reinforces that. I don’t trust technology, I don’t trust corporations, Big Data puts profit and money first, I do not trust people. Not in groups. Individually in clinic, yes. On Facebook, no.

And I realized the secret reason that I don’t twitter this week: I am a terrible speller. Yes, I am thinking of our twitter in chief and the spelling of counsel.

I would rather be outdoors trading songs with a bird than be indoors with a screen. Our television was turned off four years ago. I check varied news sources for a few minutes in the early morning. And then I turn them off.

Health to you and everyone.

Dear Mr. Donald Trump

Two weeks ago I sent this letter to Mr. Trump and all of the presidential candidates. To date I have gotten a form letter from Mrs. Hilary Clinton.

Dear Mr. Donald Trump and all Presidential candidates:

Mr. Trump, I am a rural family practice physician, a woman, who owns and runs my own medical clinic. I take care of patients from age zero to 104. Currently my oldest is 98. I take medicare and most insurances, but not medicaid.

I am running into legal immorality across the board from health insurance corporations that are maximizing profits at the expense of my health care dollar, our taxes and my patients. I would like your advice.

For example, the Veterans Hospital contacted me in May of 2015 and asked me to accept Veterans Choice patients, veterans who live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA Hospital. I accepted. I have 6 veteran patients, who are very complicated. To date I have not been paid for one visit. Now, before you say this is the fault of our government, it isn’t. It is the private for profit government contractor Triwest who is not paying me. They have my notes and we have followed their instructions on how to submit bills. Would you advise me to drop these patients?

For example, my father died in 2014. I called the oxygen company to pick up 6 tanks of oxygen. Then I found 8 more. I gently inquired why he had 14 tanks. The company said that his medical orders said that he should wear it continuously, so they delivered it. “Medicare paid for it.” they said. Ah. Well, I kept the other 8 tanks, because it is my and my father’s oxygen in those tanks: the company can have the tanks back when they are empty.

For example, the head of the sleep apnea supply company came to see me. He said, “You are getting in the way of your patients getting needed equipment.” I said, “Really? How?” “You only allowed a refill of one of the 8 necessary pieces of CPAP tubing instead of signing off on the whole group so we can fill as needed.” “Ah.” I said, “Actually my patients are tired of you mailing them 8 pieces of plastic that are filling up their closets and they don’t want extra plastic crap.” He mails it at the interval allowed by medicare, never mind whether the patient wants or needs it.

For example, I called a patient’s insurance to get a prior authorization last week for a limited sinus CT. They no longer do prior authorizations. They will decide whether to cover the CT scan once they read my notes. I asked if there was ANY way to see if it would be approved. They offered to let me send a letter to a PO Box in Wisconsin. My patient was sick, Mr. Trump. What do you suggest the patient and I do?

This is all legal. But it is not moral. So, Mr. Trump, where do you stand? Is our country’s highest value free enterprise and profit at any cost, no matter how many of our seniors are legally ripped off? Or do we have morals that health care and our elderly are important and need to be protected from legal but predatory businesses.

Please let me know, Mr. Trump. I would rather stick with my small clinic in the United States. At this point I would be financially and emotionally better off working as a temporary doctor internationally. I am sure that there is immorality internationally, but I will be less ashamed when it is not MY country.

Thank you.

 

Paying as I am paid

Perhaps I will feel better about the state of medicine and corporate fraud preying on the poor and elderly and disabled in the United States, if I pay my bills as I am paid: let’s think about that.

I go to the grocery store and ask for a print out of the receipt before I pay. I look at it carefully. “I think that one sku number is incorrect. I am returning the bill for you to correct. Meanwhile I am taking the groceries. Please mail the corrected bill to me and I will check it and respond within 6 weeks. Thank you.” I smile and leave.

I look at my electric bill. My name is misspelled. I write a note. “Your bill is incorrect. Please correct it so that I can pay you promptly.” I mail it.

I look at my garbage and water bill. My ex-husband’s name is still on it. “Mr. Lizard is not at this address. Here is his forwarding address. Thank you.”

I carefully examine my gasoline bill at the pump. I step inside and explain: “I think that your pump dispensed 3 oz less then the measured amount. I have an exacto fuel measuring device, and your pump is wrong. Please mail me a corrected bill so that I can pay you promptly.”

There. I have no more bills to pay. I eat lunch, happy that I will be earning interest on the pittance that I am paid.

Thank you, United States corporations: you have taught me so much.

I took the photograph in 2011 on Halloween.

 

 

Fraud in medicine: prior authorization II

The insurance corporations and the culture of business fraud is destroying the United States economy and allopathic medicine.

I am a US physician who calls for prior authorizations myself, with the patient in the room, and bills the insurance company for the time “counseling and coordination of care” by the minute.

I called with patient X, to get authorization for a medicine, last week. We had already tried by me filling out on line forms, twice, and faxing paperwork to the insurance company. Now I was calling them. His insurance card has a separate number for “Rx”, that is, prescriptions. I call the number.

Call 1 takes me through a phone tree, puts me on hold and then hangs up on me.
Call 2 takes me through the same phone tree: enter my national provider identification number, my tax id number, the patient id number, etc. I reach a human. She asks for my number in case we are cut off. I give it to her. I also confirm my clinic address, national provider number, tax id, fax number, patient id number, date of birth, patient name. She will call back if we are cut off. We are cut off. No call back.
Call 3 takes me through the same phone tree. It hangs up on me before we reach a human.
Call 4 takes me…….we reach a human. He takes my number. He promises to call back if we are cut off. Repeat previous information. We are cut off.

No. Call. Back.

Ok. I call the insurance company main number and explain. Meanwhile I am documenting each call in my patient’s chart. The insurance company explains that the patient is in a Union and the Union has it’s own prescription program which has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE INSURANCE COMPANY. I insist that as the patient’s insurance company, they must help. They give me the number of the Union headquarters and put me on hold to transfer me. We wait five minutes. Then we hang up.

I call the Union. I reach a person. I explain that my patient needs prior authorization and we can’t reach the Rx company and we called the insurance company. The Union person kicks it upstairs and swears someone will call me. Tomorrow.

I apologize to my patient for the continued delay. I document in the chart: billing by time one hour face to face counseling and coordination of care making SIX PHONE CALLS TO TRY TO GET PRIOR AUTHORIZATION AND UNABLE TO. I express frustration in my note. I hope the company reviews the clinic note regarding the high bill, because I would be very happy to think that the insurance company might get upset at the Rx company for costing them money.

This is fraud. This costs United States citizens $82,000.00 per provider per year to have people sitting on the phone, on the computer, trying to get prior authorization approval from the insurance companies. The contract that I sign with an insurance corporation to be a “preferred provider” basically says that the insurance company can change their policy whenever they want. There are 500 plus insurance policies. Do you think you could keep up with every policy’s changing rules? I can’t. Nor can my patients. It is in the interest of the insurance corporation to make it difficult and incomprehensible.

I am told that Donald Trump knows how to run a business. I think he does, by US corporate standards, which means that the business is dishonest. I am not in the land of the free and the brave and the independent. I am in the land of corporate dishonesty and lies and I am angry.

I like my patients and I like medicine. But I hate United States business practice: rob from the poor and the sick to enrich the rich.

Fraud in medicine: mail order pharmacies

My clinic refuses to fax to mail order pharmacies. Instead, I give the prescription to the patient and tell them to mail it.

I started this policy over a year ago, when five different patients called in the same week, about two mail order pharmacies.

Patient: “I called my mail order. They say that they don’t have the prescription and the doctor just needs to cal.”

I check. Each of the prescriptions had been faxed. I called the two companies a total of five times that week. Each time they would ask for my identifying information, the patient’s identifying information, transfer me and then say, “Oh, yes, we have the prescription.”

Ah. This is a nice example of triangulation. The patient calls for their refill. The mail order company faxes me a request. I check the chart, see if the person is due for labs or a visit, and fax the prescription. Then the company sits on it. The patient calls them and the company says they don’t have it. They delay. Finally the patient calls me to call the company and then the company admits, oh, yes, actually we do have it.

So we refuse to fax to these companies.

Last week I saw a patient who had mailed her prescriptions. She did not get her medicine.

“I called the company five times. They told me they didn’t have it. They said to call you to send a “hard copy”. I said, “I mailed it to you myself on this date.” Then they said, “Oh, yes, we have it.” However she was out of her medicine for three weeks.

I said, “They saved the cost of three weeks of medicine. That is fraud.” I explained the scam.

Comprehension dawned on her face. “They do it on purpose?”

I shrug. “Five in one week seems like a business operation to me. I recommend that you write to the state insurance commissioner.

She said, “Next time I will mail it certified. And yes, I will call the insurance commissioner if they do it again.

The patient main insurance sends information that getting the prescriptions mail order will be cheaper, and so people want to use the mail order: but the mail order pharmacies in our area are saving costs by ripping people off and delaying prescribed medicine. I do hope they end up in jail: if we can’t jail the corporation, let’s at least jail the CEO and the top 4 officers.

I took the picture yesterday at sunrise.

 

Opiate overuse: a change in diagnostic criteria

In the DSM IV, that is, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, opioid dependence disorder and opioid addiction disorder are separate. Everyone on a chronic pain medicine for a length of time was expected to be dependent, but not addicted. Addiction was considered rare and was thought to be mostly people who abused opiates. Who took them for pleasure. Oxycontin, heroin, vicodon. Those bad people who were partying. Got what they deserved, didn’t they?

That has changed. My feeling was that it’s been a long time coming, but no one asked me.

In the DSM V, opioid dependence and opioid addiction have been combined into “Opioid Use Disorder”. They are no longer considered separate. They are a spectrum. Anyone who is on chronic opioids is on that spectrum. This is a big change. It has not really penetrated the doctors’ consciousness, much less the patients.

It is quite simple to score. There are 11 criteria. They are yes and no questions. Score and add up. The patients are scored mild, moderate or severe.

Here are the criteria:

Opioid Use Disorder requires meeting 2 or more criteria; increasing severity of use disorder with increasing number of criteria met.

1. Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.

2. Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.

3. Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance.

4. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

(a) a need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication of desired effect.
(b) markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.

5. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:

(a) the characteristic withdrawal syndrome or
(b) the same (or a closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

6. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than intended.

7. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.

8. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use of the substance or recover from its effects.

9. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.

10. The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.

11. Craving or a strong desire to use opioids.

Mild substance use disorder is yes to 2-3 of these.

My chronic pain patients ask, “Why do you treat me like a drug addict?”

The answer now is, “Because you are on a chronic opiate.”

I am starting to use the criteria in clinic. When I get a new chronic pain patient, I give them the list. I let them tell me.

It is hard because they often recognize 3 or 4 or 5 or more things on the list. They say, “So this is saying I’m addicted.”

“I’m afraid so.”

They grieve.

I am posting this because people are dying. The number of people dying from prescription medicine overdoses taken correctly has outstripped illegal drug use deaths, approximately 27,000 unintentional overdose deaths in 2007.

Here: CDC Grand Grand Rounds: Prescription Drug Overdoses – a U. S. Epidemic.

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6101a3.htm

The CDC article says: “The two main populations in the United States at risk for prescription drug overdose are the approximately 9 million persons who report long-term medical use of opioids, and the roughly 5 million persons who report nonmedical use (i.e., use without a prescription or medical need), in the past month.”That is “approximately” 14 million people.

Please tell your friends and those you love about this. Thank you.

first published on everything2 on June 4, 2014.