Hardly a week goes by but what I read something critical of Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. MA plans have become somewhat politicized with Democrats preferring government-run (traditional) Medicare, while Republicans like the idea of competition among private plans. Here is the thing that critics forget: MA plans are popular with seniors. They are growing and now cover more than half of all people enrolled in Medicare, about 31 million seniors and disabled individuals.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is beefing up its scrutiny of private equity investments in health care. This past September the FTC sued U.S. Anesthesia Partners (USAP) and the private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe in Houston federal court. The investors are accused of buying up a significant portion of large anesthesia practices in major Texas cities, allowing them to aggressively boost prices. FTC chair, Lina Khan, claims private equity investors “bought up the largest anesthesiology practices, then jacked up prices and entered into price-setting and market-allocation schemes.” Research has found that physician prices rose due to private equity investments.
Artificial intelligence applications have been in the news lately. I’m especially interested in medical applications. I’ve previously written about using AI to help radiologists interpret X-rays and diagnostic images. Computer-aided radiology interpretation has been around for a few years and has gotten to the point where AI can catch things that radiologists miss. The New York Times worries about whether AI is ready to manage patient care. The consensus seems to be that although it may be premature at the moment it soon will be.
The dermatologist examined my skin and he wrote me a prescription for a steroid cream. My entire visit was only $86. I scheduled minor surgery for a month later, which cost around $560 including a pathology report and a free, post surgery follow-up visit. My dermatologist gives uninsured patients a cash discount similar to the Medicare price. He also throws in free services, like writing a prescription for eczema since I was already in his office.
Contrast my experience seeing a Dallas dermatologist with patients from the United Kingdom. In the UK there is very little cost-sharing or out-of-pocket payments for services covered by the National Health Service (NHS).