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.

 

 

Admitting diagnosis: Old guy, don’t know

During my three months temp job in 2010 at a nearby Army Hospital, I was asked to help the Family Medicine Inpatient Team (FMIT) whenever a faculty member was sick or out, which turned out to be fairly often. I enjoyed this because I wanted to work with residents, Family Practice doctors in training. It was very interesting to be at a training program, watch the other faculty and work at a 400 bed hospital instead of my usual 25 bed one.

Two patients needed to be admitted at the same time on our call day, so the second year resident took one and I took the other. The report on mine was an 82 year old male veteran, coughing for three weeks, emergency room diagnosis was pneumonia.

The resident soon caught up with me because her person was too sick and got diverted to the ICU. Mr. T, our gentleman, was a vague historian. He said that he always coughed since he quit smoking 15 years ago and he couldn’t really describe the problem. He’d gotten up at 4:30 to walk around the assisted living; that was normal for him because he used to do the maintenence. He had either felt bad then or after going back to sleep in a chair and waking at 10. “I didn’t feel good. I knew I shouldn’t drive.”

He’d had a heart attack in the past and heart bypass surgery. Records were vague. The radiologist read the chest xrays essentially as, “Looks just like the one 3 months ago but we can’t guarentee that there isn’t a pneumonia or something in there.” He had a slightly elevated white blood cell count, no fever, and by then I did a Mini-mental status exam. He scored 22 out of 30. That could mean right on the edge of moderate dementia, or it could be delerium. I got his permission to call his wife.

“Oh, his memory has been bad since he spent a year in a chair telling them not to amputate his toes. And he was on antibiotics the whole time. He wasn’t the same after that. He just said he didn’t feel right and that he shouldn’t drive.” So his wife called an ambulance.

The third year chief resident came by and wanted to know the admitting diagnosis. “Old guy, don’t know.” was my reply. “Either pneumonia or a urinary tract infection or a heart attack maybe with delerium or dementia or both.”

The second year was helping me put in the computer orders, because I was terrible at it still. She could put them in upside down and asleep. “Why are we admitting him, anyhow? We can’t really find anything wrong, why not just send him home?”

“We can’t send him home because he can’t tell us what’s wrong. He might have an infection but he might not, and he has a really bad heart. If we send him home and he has a heart attack tonight, we would feel really bad. And he might die.”

I was getting a cold. I had planned to ask to work a half day but half the team was out sick so I just worked. But by morning I had no voice and felt awful. I called in sick.

At noon the phone rang. It was the second year. “You know Mr. T, who we admitted last night?”

“Yes,” I said.

“He had that heart attack during the night. Got taken to the cath lab. You made me look really good.” We had worked on the assumption that it could be early in a heart attack though the first labs and the ECG were negative. I had insisted on cardiac monitoring and repeating the enzymes. The resident had finished the note after I left and the night team had gotten the second and abnormal set of enzymes.

82 year olds are tricky. With some memory loss he couldn’t tell us much except that “I don’t feel right.” He was right not to drive and we were right to keep him in the hospital. And if it had all been normal in the morning, I still would not have felt bad about it. The residents are looking for a definitive diagnosis, but sometimes it’s “Old guy, don’t know,” until you do know.

 

Previously posted on everything2.com in April 2010. I am not sure if this branch was dead or not, but the moss grows on it here in the wet winter anyhow.

I took the photograph in the woods last weekend.