Specialty Focus   
Volume VI | Issue 11                                                                                  
March 14, 2017  
        Practice specific news, analysis and commentary 
      for Florida's Medical Specialists
                            From the publisher of FHIweekly & FloridaHealthIndustry.com

Backlog backlash: HHS says clearing Medicare backlog not possible
Vitale Health Law

Just two months after a federal judge told the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to clear through a huge backlog of Medicare claims appeals comes word from the agency that not only will it not be able to comply, but that the backlog will actually grow by the time it's supposed to have been eliminated.

According to published reports, HHS said in a recent status report to the court that it anticipates its 687,382-claim backlog to exceed more than a million by the end of fiscal year 2021, the timeline that the court had given it to eliminate the backlog.

Why Do People Kill Themselves?
Greg Smith, MD | KevinMD

I use an ongoing spreadsheet to keep track of and to report my demographics and stats for each telepsychiatry consult shift I do. I've done thousands of consults in over two dozen South Carolina emergency departments over the last half-dozen years. We have now gone over thirty thousand consults as a group.

It never ceases to amaze me, as I fire up my computer, log on to my systems and bring up the spreadsheet for the shift ahead, that one column is remarkably uniform and consistent, sometimes for days at a time. It is the column that asks for an abbreviated reason for the consultation request. It usually looks like this...

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'Stunning' gap: Canadians with cystic fibrosis outlive Americans by a decade 
Eric Boodman | STAT

In 2011, cystic fibrosis researchers noticed something weird. Patients with this deadly genetic disorder were living longer and longer - but those in Canada seemed to be living significantly longer than those in the United States.

The researchers wondered if the Canadian patients were actually more likely to survive longer, or if something else was going on. Were there differences in the way each country gathered its data? "Perhaps Canada collected data on mild cystic fibrosis patients more than the US," said Dr. Anne Stephenson, a physician-researcher specializing in cystic fibrosis at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

But that didn't turn out to be true. Six years and plenty of statistical analyses later, Stephenson and her colleagues found that the median age of survival for Canadians was 50, and only 40 for Americans.

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Why Are Drug Prices So High?     
MD Whistleblower

Why are the costs of prescription drugs so high? While I have prescribed thousands of them, I can't offer an intelligent answer to this inquiry. Of course, all the players in this game - the pharmaceutical companies, Pharmacy Benefit Managers, insurance companies, consumer activists and the government- offer their respective bromides, where does the truth lie?

While I don't fully understand it, and I don't know how to fix it, we all know that the system is broken. More than ever before in my career, I am seeing patients who cannot afford the medicines I prescribe for them. In the last few weeks of this writing, 3 patients with colitis, a condition where the large bowel is inflamed, called me to complain about the cost of their new medicine. The annual cost was in the $2,500 - $3,000 range, which is way out of range for normal folks. While I was only focused on the colitis drug, many of these patients face prohibitive costs over multiple medicines. All of these patients had medical insurance, thought it didn't feel like it to them.

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