KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Investigating One Of The ‘Fundamental Flaws’ In The Pricing Of Health Care

The Washington Post investigates how the use of data plays into what some view as a distortion in physician pay.

The Washington Post: How A Secretive Panel Uses Data That Distorts Doctors' Pay
Twelve colonoscopies and four other procedures was a typical day for [physician Harinath Sheela], according to Florida records for 2012. If the American Medical Association’s assumptions about procedure times are correct, that much work would take about 26 hours. [Physician Harinath] Sheela’s typical day was nine or 10. "I have experience," the Yale-trained, Orlando-based doctor said. "I'm not that slow; I’m not fast. I'm thorough." This seemingly miraculous proficiency, which yields good pay for doctors who perform colonoscopies, reveals one of the fundamental flaws in the pricing of U.S. health care, a Washington Post investigation has found (Whoriskey and Keating, 7/20).

Meanwhile, Medicare plans to accelerate the link between payment and quality -

Kaiser Health News: Medicare Announces Plans To Accelerate Linking Doctor Pay To Quality
Medicare had already decided that large physician groups -- those with 100 or more doctors, nurses, social workers or other health professionals -- will gain or lose as much as 1 percent of their pay starting in 2015. Those incentives would double to 2 percent the following year under draft regulations Medicare released this month. The proposal also would phase mid-sized physicians groups—those with between 10 and 99 health professionals—into the program in 2016 instead of in 2017. While they would be eligible for bonuses up to 2 percent, they would be shielded from any penalties for that first year (Rau, 7/22). 

Also in the news, a study finds financial incentives for medical trainees leads to a jump in end-of-life discussions -

Reuters: Incentives May Encourage End-Of-Life Discussions
Offering medical trainees a financial incentive to write hospital patients' end-of-life wishes in their medical records led to a spike in the proportion of records with such notations, a new study found. Past studies have suggested that although many elderly people prefer to die at home instead of in the hospital receiving aggressive treatment, some never have a discussion about end-of-life care with their doctors or have such wishes recorded (Pittman, 7/19).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.