Cloudy with a chance of hope

This is for the Daily Prompts: hopeful and year.

I took this from the beach with my zoom lens: fog, clouds, lowering, indistinct. My daughter left for college in September and is home now…. well, sort of, except she is off with friends all over the place, including right now.

It’s been a cloudy and hopeful period, since September. It is the first time in 24 years that I have not had children or teens at home, and the first time in 28 years that I have lived nearly alone…just the cat. The cat is not happy with then young adults leaving. She blames me.

I am worried about the US Medical system, the corporate takeover where more and more physicians are employed and then have no connection to how their patients are billed. They also take no responsibility for people going bankrupt over medical bills. We physicians are as responsible for the mess of US Health Care as the patients are, as Congress is, for letting 1300 insurance companies use 500 billion dollars on administrative costs….And people say I don’t trust government healthcare….but don’t take away my mother’s medicare, the VA benefits, medicaid for the disabled and very poor or the healthcare for our active duty. And yet I see for profit companies like triwest: the government contracts my local VA care to them and I fought Triwest for a year to get them to pay me for my Veterans Choice patients. And they won’t pay me for the time we spent fighting to get paid, nor the interest for waiting on a payment for an entire year. Guess who got that money? The For Profit Contractor Corporation: Triwest. And Noridian, the local medicare contractor, held my payments for 6 months. They said my paperwork was wrong….turned out it had been wrong for six years but they frankly didn’t care until they were getting audited. So who paid the price? I did and you did. In rising costs and confusion and physicians quitting. Again, I did not see a penny for the time on the phone, for the time spent trying to ask Noridian why, after 6 years of payments, they were refusing my renewal…..and meanwhile I saw my patients and went further into debt. And do you think the bank corporation wrote off their profits? No, you laugh at that…..

But, you say, where is the hope? The hope is that I think we are at the point where enough physicians are quitting outright, enough Veterans Choice patients are calling their Congress People, the patients refuse to be patient any longer….and I am seeing more people fight for a single payer system, for a system where the money does not go to profit and administration while people die waiting for prior authorization and insurance corporations change the rules every week and refuse and refuse and refuse care…..I think people: patients and physicians: will wake up and change the system.

And that, Mr. Trump, is what I would do to make the US great again….

 

 

 

 

 

Veteran

My clinic has gotten three calls in the last week to take more rural Veteran’s Choice patients. One was too far away on Whidby Island. Apparently few providers will work with Veteran’s Choice: but I understand that too, because it took me a full year to get the contractor for the insurance, Triwest, to start paying me. And it took me hours, hours that I could spend doing medicine, instead of fighting with a corrupt for profit corporation.

And I am glad that I won that round.

I took the photograph at our Rhody Parade, in 2006.

Fraud in medicine: Veterans Choice

Yesterday I tried another tack to get paid for seeing Veterans Choice patients.

We are more than 40 miles from the nearest Veterans Hospital. Starting May of 2015, I was called by the Veterans administration to ask if I would accept a veteran as a patient. I said yes. I have seven by now, but we are currently refusing to take more.

That is, I can see them, but so far I have not been paid a penny.

The VA sends me an authorization from Triwest, the (for profit) contractor in the Northwest region, I see the patient, I fax my note and everything to Triwest, I fill out forms for referrals…. my biller follows Triwest’s instructions…. and they do not pay us. Over 25 visits now, over $5000.00

I have called Triwest, I have written to my senator and representative, I have called and called….

Yesterday I looked at this site: http://www.va.gov/

From there to the US map: http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/division.asp?dnum=1&isFlash=0.

We are district 20: http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/region.asp?map=1&ID=20

VA Puget Sound Seattle: http://www.pugetsound.va.gov/

Under “about us” a dropdown menu to the leadership team: http://www.pugetsound.va.gov/about/leadership.asp

And I called the office of William H. Campbell, MD, FACHE | 206-277-1330, chief of staff, third one down.

The administrative assistant who answered asked if he was expecting my call.

No, I said and explained. I said that I very much like my veterans and would like to continue to work with them but as the owner, CEO and sole physician in a small business, I do need to get paid. Please help.

She put me on hold. And then I spoke to Dr. Campbell and explained again. I said that I am not getting paid, we have contacted Triwest multiple times and followed their instructions, when I call Veterans Choice the response I get is “I don’t know.” and that my patients can’t get their mail order refills because even though the VA called me to see the patient, I am not “entered” in to their pharmacy system.

Later I got a call from a person who promised to speak to Triwest and expedite payment.

I got a call from the head of pharmacy at the Seattle VA.

Who knows? I might, someday, get a check from Triwest.

The issue is really that this is not an isolated problem. All of the insurances are getting worse. I get postcards from 50 different insurance programs a month telling me how they have changed their benefits for the different plans and inviting me to go on line and read their detailed instructions. Noridian, the northwest for profit contractor for medicare, held my payments for 5 months last year because they were getting audited and suddenly realized that my application and everyone else’s had been wrong for years. Doctors are quitting all over the Olympic Peninsula and I suspect all over the United States. At this point I do not think anyone could DESIGN a more unintelligent, arcane, frustrating system. And if you see a US doctor, half of their staff is there to go on line or on the phone to get prior authorization to get a CT scan, get an MRI, see a specialist. And the paperwork for every lab, every insurance company, every xray, every physical therapy office is DIFFERENT: tell me, is this efficient? No, but someone is making a huge amount of money and it is certainly not me. I want my health care dollar to go to health, not to stupidity and not to corporate profit.

And I am wondering if it is worth it……

I took the photo of the trees and bunkers at Fort Worden in 2005.

 

 

Fraud in medicine: FAXMANIA!!

All right, the latest trend in the complete insanity that is the United States Medical Corporate Black Hole Eating The American Dream: FAXMANIA!!!!

I am a Veterans Choice rural provider. Well, I thought I was. But turns out even though the VA keeps calling me to accept new veterans who are more than 40 miles from the nearest VA, they have not paid me for one visit in 2015. And I did between 20 and 30.

Because, you see, even though they have me listed as a Veterans Choice Provider, the paper work is SPECIAL and it has to be PERFECT and we have to fax EVERYTHING.

So I have to fax every single clinic note to Veterans Choice. Where, presumably, they lose it and have plausible deniability. Also, when a patient comes to see me, they are only approved for ONE NEW PATIENT VISIT, TWO FOLLOW UP VISITS, WITHIN THE STATED DATES, which is two months. Then I have to fill out a form and send it to Veterans Choice, who sends it to triwest, to get approval to continue to be my patient’s primary care doctor FOR ONE YEAR ONLY. Then I have to remember to do it again. AND I have to fill out a form to send to Veterans Choice, who sends it to triwest, for every single referral or test more complicated (read: expensive) than an xray AND for labwork AND don’t forget to fax a copy of every clinic note to Veterans Choice so they know I did it AND now for one patient’s medicine, I have ALSO fax a copy of every note to his VA PRIMARY CARE DOCTOR so that she will refill his pain medicine because: Hell if I know, apparently it’s EASIER to fill from her than me because the VA has no frigging idea who I am.

And the Veterans Choice 40 mile rule? We have two patients now from Whidby Island. They have to take a ferry to see me. Yes, they can bring a car on the ferry. Yes, they can get here except when the ferry is canceled for very low tides or weather….Yes, it’s insane.

Meanwhile, this note from the State of Washington Health Care Authority, aka medicaid: “The Contractor shall require that when subcontracted provider organizations with certified EHRs see an Apple Health Managed Care enrollee, they send a care summary (CCDA) from the providers EHR to the WA Link4Health Clinical Data Repository beginning no later than February 1, 2017.” Translation? Oh, we have to send bloody proof that we saw the bloody patient in the form of a CCDA electronically OR ELSE! OR ELSE WE ARE BREAKING THE LAW! They wouldn’t want to fire us but you betcha they would love to fine the hell out of us. Note: This requirement only applies to provider organizations who have already invested in certified EHR technology.

Hi, Big Brother.

Now, fax is HIPAA compliant, as long as we include the cover disclaimer that IF WE SENT IT TO THE WRONG PLACE SHRED WITHOUT READING OR YOU WILL BE STRUCK DEAD BY LIGHTENING FROM THE SKY GODS AND/OR THE ORBITING LASER HIPAA POLICE.

And meanwhile I have lab order forms for the three labs in town (all completely different and even with different panels) and one in Sequim, also 6 different forms for 6 different places for xrays, CT scans, MRIs, a form for the Vascular imaging, a form for cardiology, different ones for each physical therapy office. Now the DMV disabled parking form must be accompanied by a prescription on legal Washington State prescription paper saying yeah, he is disabled. Why use one piece of paper when you can require two?

When I fill out lab orders for the local hospital, the patients sometimes say, “Can you fax that over?”

“Yes,” I say, “but they lose 50% of them.” No, really. We fax them and keep a copy and then the patient goes in and the lab calls and says, “We don’t have the order.” I am not sure if they are “lost” or just in a pile to be entered into the TIME SAVING ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORD COMPUTER SYSTEM THAT MAKES EVERYTHING FASTER AND MADE US PAPERLESS EXCEPT FOR THE TEN MILLION FAXES DAILY. “You are better off picking it up and handing it to them, or I can mail it to you.” The other day a patient asked if that was malice, since I am not in the hospital system. “No,” I said, “I think they have laid people off until there aren’t enough and the corporation dumps the long timers that know stuff and cost more.”

Once I was working on a holiday Monday. I had a patient who I thought had a new arrythmia. I called the hospital and asked the tech if we could do an outpatient ECG on this holiday.

“I don’t know.” the tech said.

There was a silence. I wondered if the tech would ask someone in authority.

“I’m new.” said the tech. “They’ve laid a lot of people off.”

Someone in authority WAS present. “We can do one on a holiday.” I said firmly. “I will send her right over. Call me when it’s done.” So the tech did it.

Where medicaid goes, medicare follows and then the insurance companies will too. Next, I predict that we will have to fax every note to the appropriate company every single visit, and to the secondary insurance too. And then they will install a video camera in each office and videotape every clinic visit…. and I will either be a physician in another country or be doing something else….

 

What, you say, does the shack have to do with this? I can always go live there, off the grid, if I can’t stand the paperwork and hoops I have to jump through. It is a play house at my family’s land on a lake in Ontario, built in the 1970s. Friends and I put a new roof on this year: their 6 year old was delighted. It would be frightfully cold in the winter and anyhow, I can only stand straight in the middle….