Robin Hood to the Rescue? Saving Rural Hospitals
New Math Promised for Medicare Payments to bump reimbursements and save failing hospitals.
Rural hospital closures are at an epidemic high across the United States. Some states are hoping that the Trump administration proposal to change the way hospital payments are calculated will rescue them.
The math adjustments for payments could mean additional millions for rural hospitals. Some states, such as Alabama, are comprised of mostly rural hospitals.
The Robin Hood-like effect would mean an increase in payments to some hospitals while decreasing them to others. It is centered on what is known as the “wage index”. Which is a 1980’s regulation that was passed to ensure the reimbursements were equitable for hospitals nationwide, while adjusting for local market prices. This penalized rural hospitals nationwide with consistently lower payments.
For some states, addressing the calculation inequities could make the different between losing more hospitals and keeping the doors open.
Churches Step in to Help Erase Medical Bill Debt
$22,000 in the hands of Pathway Church, near Wichita, Kansas, has become a modern-day loaves and fishes story in the hands of the middle-income families with school-age kids.
The nondenominational suburban congregation of about 3,800 had set out to help people nearby pay off some medical debt. Tied around an Easter message about having a debt paid that people could never pay themselves, the smaller amount of money set aside ending up wiping out over $2.2 million in medical debt, for 1,600 people who could not afford to pay.
The help with medical debt has gained momentum with churches in Maryland, Illinois, Virginia, Texas and elsewhere. A non-profit called RIP Medical Debt has had an upsurge in participation from Christian places of worship. RIP busy medical debt portfolios on a secondary market, and instead of collecting on it, forgives it. There are poverty level guidelines to qualify.
Doctors and hospitals are eager to get those hard-to-collect on debts off their books, and sell them cheap. This has helped 18 churches abolish over $34.4 million in debt since the start of 2018.
Even congregations with 200 have wiped out millions in debt. RIP medical bills!
Your Bed May Know More about You then You Think
Your smart bed may know more about you, then you think. It knows when you turn in and when you wake up, and has sensors for movement, and microphones to track snoring.
It’s in the details, a sleep IQ score that helps with data over time. There is a privacy mode which halts transmission but limits what the owner of a Sleep Number mattress can learn about their sleep patterns.
The more you use the bed, the better your sleep habits can be tracked. One French company makes a monitor that can track movement, heart rate, snoring, and other factors and shares anonymous data with hospitals, researchers or companies.
But all of this sleep data is not protected by federal privacy rules. And some of those trackers can connect with other in-home devices. This raises the question of hackers using that ability of your home devices talking to each other to track your personal habits.
This is giving rise to a new condition called “orthosomnia”. People who track their habits in such detail, get anxious because they want a perfect number.
Maybe being so connected, is not the best of ideas!
States and the Federal Government Overhauling Medical Debt Collection Practices
Emergency room visits that are not part of your network can run to the thousands for even a short visit. Life happens and then there are the collection calls.
Although debt collection agencies are limited to 1 call per day. An emergency room visit could involved many separate entities, each with their own collection practices. This could result in dozens of collection calls a week.
More states have become involved in passing legislation that is a solution, lower interest rates and a sliding scale for poverty levels being a determining factor in deciding how patients are charged.
In the Federal arena, greater restrictions are being examined for debt collection frequency of calls.
Tech and the Health Care Field- Good or Bad?
Amazon is ever expanding its marketplace, just the other day, there were homes for sale with free delivery, from $5K to over $20K. Now there is a health care frontier that Alexa is tapped into. Alexa can help diabetes patients query their last blood sugar reading, blood sugar measurement trends, and receive personalized insights and Health Nudges.
This is on trend with telemedicine, a $10 billion industry that is taking the medical and patient community. Not all of this is good news, a 6-minute phone call can turn into several hundreds of dollars of expenses. Digital innovation can be confusing for the older generation, and may not reflect the best services for needs.
So before investing in telemedicine, Alexa helps, or many other convenience digital innovations, examine the true cost, make sure your privacy is intact, and be smart!