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Friday catch-up

The dog days of August are upon us, and I’m going to be on vacation for most of next week, so there won’t be much activity at the Intergalactic HQ of Health Strategy Associates – or here for that matter.

Let’s get caught up on what happened this week.

Workers Comp

First, from the arcane world of Pennsylvania billing comes this note – a recent Supreme Court case, Selective Insurance v Physical Therapy Institute resulted in a ruling favorable to Selective – and other payers in PA.  Allegedly PTI – a Medicare Part A provider – was providing billing services for Medicare Part B PT providers; as PTI was not the provider, the court found the insurer did not have to pay PTI for the services.

Thanks to Linda Schmac of Premier Comp for the heads up. Ms Schmac suggests payers may want to ask their PA patients to sign an affidavit from providers other than PTI to maintain this protection.

In the possibly-even-more-esoteric world of work comp pharmacy, the good folks in North Carolina passed legislation restricting physician dispensing to workers’ comp claimants.  Pricing has to be based on a non-repackaged drug, docs are prohibited from dispensing more than a five-day supply of Schedule II and III drugs.  Kudos to Industrial Commission Chair Andrew Heath and his staff for shepherding this bill thru.

Finally, we’ve just finished collecting the data for the Eleventh Annual Survey of Pharmacy Benefit Management in Workers’ Comp; I’ll do a quick post on highlights Monday.  If you want to peruse past editions, click here.

Health care inflation

Has stayed remarkably low over the last few years.  Now comes a solid analysis that indicates most of that “reduction in the rate of inflation” is due to economic factors.  In an article published in Health Affairs, the authors found that about 70% of the decrease was due to those economic factors associated with the slowdown; whether PPACA implementation will help keep rates down going forward is not yet known. That said, it looks like PPACA could only be responsible for about 30% of the decrease.

Don’t jump to conclusions – the impact of reform won’t be known for several more years. 

Health reform implementation

Those who think the problems with the Federal Exchange are behind us may want to wait just a bit before declaring victory.  Re-enrollment will require verification of income and other bits of data aggregation, assembly, and verification; word is some of these processes are not yet ready for prime time.  Here’s hoping they are before prime time arrives – in two months…

From “The National Memo comes a report on a recent Gallup finding that the uninsured rate is down 4 percentage points in the 21 states that have both “expanded Medicaid and set up their own state exchanges; in the 29 that have taken one or neither of these steps, it has fallen only 2.2 percent.” Given the Federal Exchanges’ problems, this isn’t surprising. 

Notably, “9 of the 10 states that have experienced the largest reductions in their uninsured rates are governed by Democrats (with the exception being New Mexico, where Republican Susana Martinez is governor).” GOP governors happen to run the ten states with the lowest reductions in uninsured rates. 

A big chunk of this is due to not expanding Medicaid; another study indicates:

  • 6.7 million residents are projected to remain uninsured in 2016 as a result
  • Non-expansion states are giving up $423.6 billion in federal Medicaid funds over ten years.
  • Hospitals in the 24 non-expansion states are going to lose out on $167.8 billion “in Medicaid funding that was originally intended to offset major cuts to their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.”

As I’ve noted, those hospitals are going to have to make up that revenue shortfall from somewhere…

Medicare Solvency

The Medicare Trustees’ Report is out – just in time for that beach reading!  NASI has produced their much-more-readable review, which finds that there’s currently enough funding to cover all hospital expenses till 2030 – that’s four years more than last year’s assessment.

Good news to be sure.  Now if we can just keep those providers from shifting costs to work comp patients…



2 thoughts on “Friday catch-up”

  1. New Mexico has a relatively limited-stagnant- and not very diverse economy. There has been a large Medicaid population in New Mexico–for at least the last 30 years. The major employers are National Labs (Los Alamos, Sandia) the Air Force Base, Universities, state and fed govt. all of which provide fairly good insurance coverage/benefits. Tourism is a mixed bag as is the agriculture and ranching, oil and gas industries. The state has a relatively small population for geographic size so I am not sure how your economic analysis applies there based on other faster growing states in the region with more diverse economies.

    1. Joan – thanks for the comment. The study referenced covered all states, with NM being among those that has reduced its uninsured population significantly. Other states with much larger populations have also seen large increases in the insured population, while some very large states (TX, FL) that did not expand Medicaid have not.

      The focus of the research was on the impact of expansion on uninsurance across the country; like NM, many states have their own unique economic and demographic characteristics.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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