From a recent press release by the AMA:
"On behalf of the American Medical Association, I would like to commend New York Attorney General Cuomo for his groundbreaking agreement with CIGNA. Physicians greatly appreciate your leadership and your commitment to our shared goal of enhancing the quality of care and ensuring patients are provided with reliable information that is meaningful to them.I feel so reassured when our physician political leadership is in bed with the insurance industry in the interest of "enhancing quality of care and ensuring patients are provided with reliable information that is meaningful to them."
"The AMA also commends CIGNA for leading the industry by renouncing physician evaluations and rankings based solely on economic factors, and agreeing to a balanced approach that acknowledges physician ratings have a risk of error and should not be the sole basis for selecting a physician."
What a bunch of double-speak. What really should have been said by the AMA to Mr. Cuomo was this:
"Physicians who still are members of the AMA greatly appreciate your leadership and your commitment to siding with the insurance industry's efforts to rank physicians. We at the AMA share your vision of disempowering physicians so they become better providers of healthcare as measured by industry- and government-mandated milestones which, to date, have had little to no proof of being effective."Now THAT, my friends, would have been the truth.
Instead, in the push to belly-up to the corporate interests, Mr. Cuomo has negotiated a system that works best for the his government and the insurers, and does little to nothing to reduce the ultimate cost of healthcare and healthcare outcomes for our patients, now dubbed "healthcare consumers." Can we honestly think that the bureaucracy developed by these interests really will save costs for our health care system? You know it's bad when other press releases describe such terms as "actionable information:"
"'Our program is focused on providing actionable and meaningful information and is founded on clinical integrity to ensure comparisons are fair,' (Jeffrey) Kang (chief medical officer of Cigna) said today at a news conference in New York."Pardon me, but what the hell is "actionable and meaningful information?" Actionable by whom - the insurance industry? Government agencies? Web-site developers? Healthcare "consumers?" Or do we really mean 82-year old patients who have never used a computer in their life and will never pick up a computer mouse because they can't even see the computer screen?
Who the hell are we kidding?
I must admit, I initially felt a bit warm and fuzzy when the good Mr. Cuomo threatened Cigna, Aetna and UnitedHealth with lawsuits from the State of New York. I thought he got it:
He warned the companies that the ratings are confusing and potentially deceptive, in part because insurers don't disclose how prone to error their rankings are. The move follows rankings lawsuits by doctors accusing insurers of libel, unfair business practices and breach of contract in other states.So why the change of heart? Could it be that the Great State of New York wanted its cut of the monies that the insurance companies can bring to bear in the rush to tap the Almighty Healthcare Dollar? Where, exactly, will the oversight 501(3c) organization, funded in part to a tune of $100,000 seed monies from Cigna, be based? Could it be in New York? Would they have to pay property taxes on their building to the State of New York? What about the employee's state taxes contributed by all of the little gnomes working for this newly-formed organization? Will they have to pay New York state income tax? Ah, the potential for revenue streams for the Great State of New York are endless! And if "this will be a rating system that will serve as a model for the nation," as Mr. Cuomo hopes, then it really WILL be an economic engine for New York, won't it?
But that is not enough. Seizing on a potentially lucrative opportunity, our "own" AMA has quickly joined in the congratulatory praise. But wasn't it recently that they were found to have sold our prescribing information to the pharmaceutical companies behind our backs for revenue to their organization? Could the AMA now be on board with Mr. Cuomo because they can provide similar information to an even bigger deep-pocket: the insurance companies? Hot damn! Jackpot indeed! What's that you say? That'll never happen because of an independent organization? We wonder: which measures will the oversight organization (paid, of course by Cigna's grant and dubbed the "Select Few") be tasked to review - those published overtly or those covertly performed? Will they be privy to the backroom dealings of the AMA with the insurance corporations? Unlikely.
It is no secret that drug companies carefully track the effectiveness of their doctor "lunch" meetings by noting a rise in prescriptions filled by a physician's name. To achieve this analysis, pharmacies and the AMA sell the information on prescriptions actually filled by the patient back to the drug companies. The drug companies then have specially-hired marketing firms scruitinize the data to decide where best to invest in their next marketing efforts. Transparent? Hardly. So what's to stop the AMA from doing similar shenanigans with the insurance industry?
Meanwhile, patients continue to be restricted from purchasing insurance across state lines, are forced to buy pre-arranged medical care plans decided for them by their employer (in concert with the insurers) and have no method of measuring the "quality" of the insurer. Claim denials and payment delays to physicians and patients alike continue, and the AMA stands "happy" with these measures "negotiated" by New York Attorney General Cuomo.
I've got a headache.