Medicare

Prolific Prescribers Of Controlled Substances Face Medicare Scrutiny

Dec 15, 2014

Despite a national crackdown on prescription drug abuse, doctors churned out an ever-larger number of prescriptions for the most-potent controlled substances to Medicare patients, new data show.

In addition, ProPublica found, the most prolific prescribers of such drugs as oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine and Ritalin often have worrisome records.

The veteran business executive hired by Florida Healthcare Plus is trying to repair the image of the firm after six former employees were indicted for their role in an international, $25 million Medicare and Medicaid scam, the Miami Herald reports.

In an interview, Susan Rawlings Molina says no one else at the company knew about the fraud, except for the ex-employees who are now facing charges. Only the former workers, not the company, are accused of wrongdoing.

U.S. Health Spending Growth Lowest Since 1960

Dec 4, 2014

National health spending grew 3.6 percent in 2013, the lowest annual increase since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began tracking the statistic in 1960, officials said Wednesday.

Spending slowed for private health insurance, Medicare, hospitals, physicians and clinical services and out-of-pocket spending by consumers.  However, it accelerated for Medicaid and for prescription drugs, according to the report, published online by the journal Health Affairs.

A whistleblower’s lawsuit by an ex-Plaza Health Network executive alleges that false claims were submitted to Medicare and Medicaid to the tune of $130 million, the Broward Bulldog reports.

(Editor's Note: It's Medicare enrollment season, now through Dec. 7, and beneficiaries are trying to decide on a plan. Health News Florida’s Carol Gentry, who has covered Medicare for many years, is seeing the federal program from a new point of view: as a beneficiary. Her first commentary, which aired Oct. 9, was "Medicare's Complexity Can Be Scary." The second one, "Which Medicare Path Do I Take?" is below).

Few Obese Seniors Using Medicare Benefit

Nov 20, 2014
Associated Press

Three years ago, the Obama administration offered hope to millions of overweight seniors when it announced Medicare would offer free weight-loss counseling.

Officials estimated that about 30 percent of seniors are obese and therefore eligible for counseling services, which studies have shown improve the odds of significant weight loss.

Hospitals Taking Cues From Hospitality

Nov 5, 2014

Two years ago, Inova Health System recruited a top executive who was not a physician, had never worked in hospital administration and barely knew the difference between Medicare and Medicaid.

What Paul Westbrook specialized in was customer service. His background is in the hotel business – Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton, to be precise.

Medicare said it will consider paying doctors to counsel patients about their options for end-of-life care, the same idea that spurred accusations of "death panels" and fanned a political furor around President Barack Obama's health care law five years ago.

The announcement came late last week in a voluminous regulation on physician payment. It will "give the public ample opportunity to weigh in on the topic," said Medicare spokesman Aaron Albright.

Medicare will consider a change for 2016.

University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Behind the scenes at the University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, two top physicians feuded so badly over just about everything that a "personality coach" was hired to try to soothe tensions. 

But as the Miami Herald reports, the two stars couldn’t coexist; and after one of the doctors left Bascom Palmer, he turned in the other over allegations of Medicare fraud.

A lawsuit filed against Tampa’s Laser Spine Institute alleges the center offered illegal incentives to entice patients to have surgery there, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, the owner of competitor Bonati Institute also accuses the spine-surgery competitor of interfering with business by using “secret shoppers.”   

The Medicare “Part B” premium that most older people pay for outpatient care will stay the same in 2015 — $104.90 a month.

The government says it’s the third consecutive year that the basic monthly premium has held steady.

Higher premiums paid by upper-income beneficiaries also are unchanged. These are for people with an income greater than $85,000 a year, or $170,000 for married couples.

.S. Department of Health and Human Services

As of Nov. 1, I will be on Medicare, which means I have to enroll this month. I should have plenty of company, since open enrollment for 2015 begins Oct. 15.

As a reporter and editor on the health-care beat, I’ve been explaining Medicare to the public since 1976. So people assume that I understand it thoroughly.  

But writing about Medicare is one thing; living it is another. For advice, I called Barbara Katz, a former reporter and lawyer who recently moved to Longboat Key from another state.  She enrolled in Medicare and a supplemental plan six years ago.

Former Orlando Health patients may have to help repay the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services after a federal audit discovered the hospital overbilled Medicare by $1.45 million, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Readmission Fines Hit FL Hospitals

Oct 6, 2014
Kaiser Health News

Medicare is fining a record number of hospitals – including more than 140 in Florida – for having too many patients return within a month for additional treatments, newly released federal records show.

Even though the nation’s readmission rate is dropping, Medicare’s average fines will be higher, with 39 hospitals receiving the largest penalty allowed, including the nation’s oldest hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.

Medicare Open Enrollment is Fast Approaching -- Here's What We Know So Far

Oct 1, 2014

Medicare beneficiaries who want to make changes to their prescription drug plans or Medicare Advantage coverage can do so starting Oct. 15 during the Medicare's program’s annual open enrollment period. There will be somewhat fewer plans to pick from this year, but in general people will have plenty of options, experts say.

College students studying whistleblower law heard a first-hand account from the woman who accused Halifax Health of Medicare fraud, the Daytona Beach-News Journal reports. 

For the first time, Elin Baklid-Kunz spoke publicly to Stetson University students about the whistleblower lawsuit that was settled earlier this year for $86 million, and earned $20.8 million for Baklid-Kunz and her attorneys.

HealthCare.gov

The government’s own watchdogs tried to hack into HealthCare.gov earlier this year and found what they termed a critical vulnerability — but also came away with respect for some of the health insurance site’s security features.

Those are among the conclusions of a report being released Tuesday by the Health and Human Services Department inspector general, who focuses on health care fraud.

Gov. Rick Scott’s leadership of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain is well known, as is the company’s record $1.7 billion fine for filing false claims for Medicare and other federal health programs.

But as he faces re-election, stories about a simultaneous investigation in the 1990s are emerging involving Scott and attempts to buy the then-publicly owned Tampa General Hospital, The Tampa Tribune reports.

Hospital Observations Favor Privately Insured

Sep 11, 2014

An increasing number of seniors who spend time in the hospital are surprised to learn that they were not "admitted" patients -- even though they may have stayed overnight in a hospital bed and received treatment, diagnostic tests and drugs.

The nation's respite from troublesome health care inflation is ending, the government said Wednesday in a report that renews a crucial budget challenge for lawmakers, taxpayers, businesses and patients.

Economic recovery, an aging society, and more people insured under the new health care law are driving the long-term trend, according to the report published online by the journal Health Affairs.

Linked In

Florida Healthcare Plus, a Medicare HMO and drug plan, is under state review for making a $600,000 error in a financial statement and has been temporarily blocked from enrolling any new members, its chief executive says.

The company, based in Coral Gables, was also recently fined $113,200 by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a different type of infraction -- "systemic failures" to provide all the benefits due to members under CMS rules.

The co-owner of a Miami home health agency was sentenced to 70 months in prison for fraudulently providing therapy to Medicare recipients.

Between 2008 and 2014, Annarella Garcia’s Professional Medical Home Health received approximately $6.25 million in fraudulent Medicare claims, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

Amerigroup

Two major health care groups have named new Chief Operating Officers for their Florida operations.

 Liz Miller has been promoted to the position at WellCare of Florida, the Tampa Bay Business Journal reports. She has been the vice president of product operations at the Tampa-based company since 2012. WellCare is Florida’s large Medicaid HMO contractor.

A federal report  found that 24 percent of people with questionable Medicare billing for HIV drugs live in Miami, according to the South Florida Business Journal. That’s remarkable, considering only 2 percent of the nation’s Medicare beneficiaries who get HIV drugs live in the area.

FL Prescriber Tied to Drug Maker

Aug 5, 2014

Many of Medicare's top prescribers of the expensive specialty drug H.P. Acthar Gel have financial ties to the drug's maker.

Only 18 practitioners wrote 15 or more prescriptions for the drug in 2012. At least nine — and all of the top four — were promotional speakers, researchers or consultants for Questcor Pharmaceuticals, a ProPublica analysis shows.

 The Halifax Health Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Monday to end the final part of a five-year-long  whistle-blower lawsuit that will cost the public hospital more than $110 million, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Medicare Scam Fugitive Now Most Wanted

Jul 8, 2014
HHS

 A Miami man has been added to federal health officials' list of most wanted fugitives.

Sandy De La Fe was indicted last year on charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud. Investigators say De La Fe owned a Miami pharmacy and participated in a prescription drug fraud scheme that bilked Medicare out of millions of dollars.

Up to 100,000 patients remain in limbo following Humana’s announcement that it would no longer include Baptist Health South Florida hospitals in its provider network, the Miami Herald reports. Baptist Health is the largest healthcare provider in the region, boasting seven hospitals in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties and more than 30 outpatient facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward.

The federal government has joined a whistleblower lawsuit against a company that provides doctors and other health professionals to work in hospitals in Florida and many other states. IPC The Hospitalist Group operates practice groups in Jacksonville, Ocala, Southwest Florida, Tampa, Broward County, Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade County and Orlando.

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