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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Patent Awarded for Compensatory Patient Invoicing

The US Patent Office has issued a patent to Stephen Ambrose for a system and method for enabling health care providers to effect compensatory invoicing of patients who use a coverage entity in addition to their health insurer.

Stephen Ambrose is the President of ICEX Data Reporting a Virginia area information technology and services company.

A system and method is provided for compensatory invoicing of a patient for health care services rendered by a Health Care Provider. The system and method enables a Health Care Provider to obtain payment of Full Rates for services rendered to a patient in circumstances where a Health Insurance Entity provides less than full-rate compensation (e.g., compensation at Contracted Rates) to the Health Care Provider AND the patient has been reimbursed additionally by another payment party for claims already paid for by the Health Insurance Entity. In one implementation, the patient contracts with the Health Care Provider to ensure that the Health Care Provider is fully compensated for the services rendered after the patient receives payments from a tortfeasor and/or First and/or Third Party Payment Entity (e.g., an auto insurance carrier, worker's compensation insurance carrier, Medpay, PIP etc.) for the services. The invention tracks claim(s) filed by the patient against the tortfeasor and/or First and/or Third Party Payment Entity and tracks payments) made by the tortfeasor and/or First and/or Third Party Payment Entity to the patient. The patient and/or the First and/or Third Party Payment Entity is then billed for the difference in payments made to the Health Care Provider by the Health Insurance Entity, effecting compensatory invoicing for a Full Rate fee chargeable by the Health Care Provider in cases when a tortfeasor and/or First and/or Third Payment party has reimbursed the patient for similar services as already reimbursed by the Health Insurance Entity.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In the current health care arena, physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers (hereinafter the "Health Care Provider") contract with health insurance companies, managed care organizations ("MCOs"), or other health insurance providers (hereinafter the "Health Insurance Entity"). Typically, both a Health Care Provider and a patient have a contractual relationship with a Health Insurance Entity. In general, when a patient visits an "in-network" Health Care Provider, the patient receives services which are subsequently billed to the Health Insurance Entity by the Health Care Provider. The Health Insurance Entity is typically the primary payer for services and will cover necessary treatment and care for the patient's various health problems, including acute injuries.

Upon contracting with the Health insurance Entity, the Health Care Provider generally agrees to accept contracted rates set by the Health Insurance Entity (hereinafter "Contracted Rates"). These Contracted Rates are typically lower than the normal, full-rate fees charged by the Health Care Provider (hereinafter "Full Rates") for the delivery of a variety of billable services. In return, the Health Care Provider is given access to the Health Insurance Entity's patients, some of whom may be assigned to the Health Care Provider. The Health Care Provider also agrees that, during the term of the patient's coverage by the Health insurance Entity, if the patient is to be billed for the Health Care Provider's services directly for any reason, the Health Care Provider can only bill at the Contracted Rates for the services performed, provided that these are services normally paid for by the Health Insurance Entity.

In most Health Insurance Entity/Health Care Provider contracts, the Health Care Provider is prohibited from billing a patient for any amounts attributable to the difference between the Health Care Provider's Full Rates and the Contracted Rates. This type of billing, is known commonly as "Balance Billing" i.e., billing the patient for the balance between the Contracted Rates and the Full Rates). The difference in rates can sometimes he quite large. Thus, while a Health Care Provider obtains some benefits from contracts with Health insurance Entities, certain financial drawbacks exist.

When a patient visits a Health Care Provider for medical attention of injuries, symptoms, or disease stemming from an accident or other event for which there is an applicable liability insurance product and/or an individual, group or business who is determined responsible in a court of law or otherwise, for the patient's injury or reason for obtaining medical attention (hereinafter known as "tortfeasor"), there may be instances when one or more parties other than a Health Insurance Entity, such as a first and/or third party payer as well as compensation paid by a tortfeasor to the patient and/or their Agent may provide payments for the Health Care Provider's services. For example, in the case of an auto accident, the first party payer may be the auto insurance company for any injured individual through an attached medical payment rider, regardless of fault in the accident (hereinafter "Medpay") or the insurer for any auto insurance rider known as
Personal Injury Protection (hereinafter "PIP"). Medpay, PIP insurers and other first party payment entities can be referred to as a first party payer (hereinafter "First Party Payment Entity"). Another example is the patient or their use of an attorney, agent or legal representative (hereinafter "Agent") in utilizing their health care bills in part or full, so as to obtain a legal judgment and/or agreement with the tortfeasor, allowing for payment to the patient and/or their Agent. An example of a third party payer may be the automobile (or other) liability insurance company for the driver (or other entity) who was "at-fault" or responsible for the Covered Event, e.g. for causing the auto (or other) accident and the injuries for which the injured, non-responsible party received treatment. Third party payers, for example, may include auto insurance carriers, liability, property & casualty and worker's compensation insurance carriers, and other third party payers, among other types of entities (hereinafter "Third Party Payment Entity"). For example, if a patient visits a Health Care Provider because he or she was in an automobile accident, the patient's Health Insurance Entity may be billed, and the patient's Health Insurance Entity may subsequently pay medical bills to the Health Care Provider who provided services to the patient. In some instances, the Health Insurance Entity may elect to seek reimbursement for monies paid for services from a First and/or Third Party Payment Entity who has also paid monies for similar health services, through a process known as subrogation.

However, in many jurisdictions (e.g., states), there is a legal doctrine known as the "
Collateral Source Rule" that, allows an injured, patient and/or their Agent to submit medical bills to a First and/or Third Party Payment Entity, even if the bills have already been paid by the Health Insurance Entity to the respective health care provider(s). The Collateral Source Rule prohibits the admission at trial of evidence that a patient's injuries were already compensated from a health insurance policy or other source of compensation. For example, in a personal injury case, evidence that a Plaintiffs medical bills were paid by his or her medical insurance are not admissible. This is largely because the Collateral Source Rule is intended to promote justice and assess remedies for fault of the tortfeasor (the entity or entities that caused the injury).

Additionally, some insurance or other payment sources that pay for an injured party's damages may gain a lien or right of subrogation in any ultimate recovery by or on behalf of the injured party. In these circumstances, the injured patient must pay back the party with the subrogation right, who had previously paid on charges from Health Care Providers), assuming the patient received additional payment for the same billed services by other payment sources other than the party with the subrogation rights.

One problem with this system is that complete and full rate payment may not be made to the Health Care Providers for services performed and billed. Agents and/or injured parties however, can submit the Health Care Provider's medical bills as part of a lawsuit and/or directly to a tortfeasor and/or to a First and/or Third Party Payment Entity and receive compensation at Full Rates, even if the medical bills were already paid. Thus, the Health Care Provider receives payment at the lower Contracted Rates, while the patient and/or their Agent through utilizing the provider's bills, can receive compensation paid by a tortfeasor to the patient and/or their Agent as well as by a First and/or Third Party Payment Entity at the higher Health Care Provider's Full Rates.

Additionally, many Health Care Provider/Health Insurance Entity contracts provide for a waiver of subrogation on the Health Care Provider's part. Subrogation is a legal concept where one entity assumes the legal rights of another entity for whom the first entity has paid expenses or a debt on their behalf. For example, when an insurer is required to pay a claimant a sum of money, the insurer usually is allowed to sue in the name of the claimant against any person who was responsible for the loss. This concept enables an insurance company to sue on behalf of its insured if it is required to pay the insured for a loss caused by another entity. Subrogation is generally considered in most legal systems to form part of the law of restitution by preventing unjust enrichment. In other words, subrogation prevents the subrogor (e.g., the patient) from receiving/utilizing funds from the subrogee (e.g., the health care insurer), and then still claiming the original sum of money from the tortfeasor (e.g., the entity that caused the accident). Pursuant to the waiver of subrogation, the Health Insurance Entity may be able to recover any payments made for services provided to a patient following an auto accident or other Covered Event, provided that the First and/or Third Party Payment Entity paid monies for the same set of services. Thus, even if the Health Insurance Entity receives payment at the Full Rates, the Health Care Provider gets nothing more than the Contracted Rates. In this sense, patients, attorneys and other parties can leverage the Health Care Provider's efforts to financially benefit. for themselves, many times at the full fee rates, while the Health Care Provider receives only the Contracted Rates.

These and other drawbacks exist with known billing practices. 

What is claimed is:

1. A billing and payment collection method utilized by a health care provider to bill and collect payment associated with treatment of a patient, the method comprising: transmitting a health care service bill from the health provider to a patient's health insurance plan for health care services provided to the patient by the health care provider, wherein the health care service bill is for the normal and full charge for the rendered health care services; accepting a contractual rate payment from the health insurance plan in response to the transmitted health care service bill, wherein the contractual rate payment is lower than the health care provider's normal and full charge for the rendered health care services; determining that an additional payment party exists, which is not the patient's health insurance plan, wherein the additional payment party is responsible to pay the patient for the health care service bill, when submitted by the patient, irrespective of the patient's health insurance plan paying the health care provider for the same health care service bill; entering into a private billing contract between the health care provider and the patient for differential monies, wherein the differential monies are the difference between the normal and full charge for the rendered health care services, and the contractual rate payment made by the health insurance plan in response to the health care service bill, wherein the differential monies are only due to the health provider upon the patient submitting the health care service bill to an additional party and receiving payment therefrom; submitting via the patient the health care service bill to the additional payment party; receiving, by the patient, from the additional payment party monies in response to the submitted health care service bill, wherein the received monies includes differential monies; billing and collecting the differential monies from the patient by the health care provider based upon the private billing contract; and wherein the prior steps are performed by one or more computers.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the billing and collection for the health provider is performed by a third party.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the patient submits the health care service bill to the additional payment party via an attorney or legal representative.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein the health care service bill relates to an injury claim involving the patient.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the private billing contract is made prior to any care being rendered by the health care provider to the patient.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the health care provider is a provider selected from a group consisting of a health system, hospital, surgical center, rehab facility, physician's practice, ambulatory center, medical service business, imaging center, outsourced diagnostic testing company, home health agency, therapy clinic, chiropractic and any non-medical practitioner and facility legally allowed to perform health care services.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein the health care services are services selected from a group consisting of consultation, examination, treatment, surgery, use of pharmaceutical products, home health, therapy, imaging, laboratory services and use of medical equipment.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein the additional payment party is based upon an insurance rider selected from a group consisting of a Med Pay, No-Fault, Uninsured Motorist, Underinsured Motorist and Personal Injury Protection riders on an automobile insurance of the patient.

9. The method of claim 1, wherein the additional payment party is based on a liability insurance product representing the at-fault party, selected from a group consisting of general liability, professional liability, auto liability, employer liability, public liability and product liability.

10. The method of claim 1, wherein the additional payment party is a party selected from a group consisting of an individual, group, business, partnership, limited liability company, insurance coverage, association, municipality, county, state, and federal government entity.

11. The method of claim 4, wherein the injury claim is based upon an injury selected from a group consisting of an auto accident, work-related injury, soft-tissue injury, liability on premises, liability due to environment, product defect, pharmaceutical product, birth injury, assault, slip, fall, circumstance relating negligence and medical malpractice.

12. The method of claim 1, wherein the private billing contract is a medical lien between the provider and patient.

13. The method of claim 1, wherein the submission of the health care service bill to the additional payment party by the patient is conducted via an attorney or legal representative.

14. The method of claim 1, wherein the differential monies exclude monies paid to the health care provider, said excluded monies selected from a group consisting of a health insurance co-payment, a health insurance deductible and co-insurance.

15. The method of claim 4, wherein the health care provider collects differential monies relating to the injury claim from the patient via an attorney or legal representative of the patient.

16. A computerized investigation method to determine whether differential monies legally owed to a health care provider by a patient are in the possession of the patient, the method comprising: transmitting a heath care service bill from the health provider to the patient's health insurance plan for health care services provided to the patient by the health care provider, wherein the health care service bill is for the normal and full charge for the rendered health care services accepting a contractual rate payment from the health insurance plan in response to the transmitted health care service bill, wherein the contractual rate payment is lower than the health care provider's normal and full charge for the rendered health care services; determining an additional payment party exists, which is not the patient's health insurance plan, wherein the additional payment party is responsible to pay the patient for the health care service bill, when submitted by the patient, irrespective of the patient's health insurance plan paying the health care provider for the same health care service bill; entering into a private billing contract between the health care provider and the patient, wherein existing differential monies are deemed owed from the patient to the health care provider, wherein the differential monies are the difference between the normal and full charge for the rendered health care services, and the contractual rate payment made by the health insurance plan in response to the health care service bill, wherein the differential monies are only due to the health provider upon the patient submitting the health care service bill to an additional party and receiving payment therefrom; submitting via the patient the health care service bill for the rendered health care services to the additional payment party; determining by the health care provider, through an investigation, that the patient received monies from the additional payment party in response to the submitted health care service bill, wherein the received monies include the differential monies; and wherein the prior steps are performed by one or more computers.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein the additional payment party is based upon an insurance rider selected from a group consisting of a Med Pay, No-Fault, Uninsured Motorist, Underinsured Motorist and Personal Injury Protection riders on an automobile insurance of the patient.

18. The method of claim 16, wherein the additional payment party is based on a liability insurance product representing the at-fault party, selected from a group consisting of general liability, professional liability, auto liability, employer liability, public liability and product liability.

19. The method of claim 16, wherein the additional payment party is a party selected from a group consisting of an individual, group, business, partnership, limited liability company, insurance coverage, association, municipality, county, state, and federal government entity.

20. The method of claim 16, wherein the injury claim is based upon an injury selected from a group consisting of an auto accident, work-related injury, soft-tissue injury, liability on premises, liability due to environment, product defect, pharmaceutical product, birth injury, assault, slip, fall, circumstance relating negligence and medical malpractice.

21. The method of claim 16, wherein the private billing contract is a medical lien between the provider and patient.

22. The method of claim 16, wherein the submission of the health care service bill to the additional payment party by the patient is conducted via an attorney or legal representative.

23. The method of claim 16, wherein the investigation for the health care provider is performed by a third party.

24. The method of claim 16, wherein the patient submits the health care service bill to the additional payment party via an attorney or legal representative.

25. The method of claim 16, wherein the health care service bill relates to an injury claim involving the patient.

26. The method of claim 16, wherein the private billing contract is made prior to any care being rendered by the health care provider to the patient.

27. The method of claim 16, wherein the health care provider is a provider selected from a group consisting of a health system, hospital, surgical center, rehab facility, physician's practice, ambulatory center, medical service business, imaging center, outsourced diagnostic testing company, home health agency, therapy clinic, chiropractic and any non-medical practitioner and facility legally allowed to perform health care services.

28. The method of claim 16, wherein the health care service is a service selected from a group consisting of consultation, examination, treatment, surgery, use of pharmaceutical products, home health, therapy, imaging, laboratory services and use of medical equipment.

29. The method of claim 16, wherein the differential monies exclude monies paid to the health care provider, said excluded monies selected from a group consisting of a health insurance co-payment, a health insurance deductible and co-insurance.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention addressing these and other drawbacks relates to a system and method for enabling a Health Care Provider to effect compensatory invoicing of patients for a Covered Event in instances where the patient has contracted with a Health Insurance Entity for provision of health care services at a Contracted Rate and additionally, there exists compensation paid by a tortfeasor to the patient and/or their Agent and/or a responsible First and/or Third Party Payment Entity who is liable for payment due to the Covered Event.

According to an aspect of the invention, a Health Care Provider may take one or more steps to ensure that it is in a legal position to effect compensatory invoicing of a patient to effectively bill a patient, while honoring the Health Care Provider/Health Insurance Entity Contract (under certain circumstances) by enforcing a billing arrangement which would enable the Health Care Provider to be paid their Full Rate when a patient or their Agent receives compensation paid by a tortfeasor and/or First and/or Third Party Payment Entity other than their Health Insurance Entity.

For example, in one implementation, a Health Care Provider, prior to rendering services to a new (or current) patient who is seeking care stemming from a Covered Event, requires the patient to sign a legal contract between the patient and the Health Care Provider, specifically outlining the billing policies of the Health Care Provider, where the contract includes a provision entitling the Health Care Provider to be entitled to their Full Rate (not the Contracted Rate) if the patient and/or their Agent uses the Health Care Provider's bills for compensation by submitting the bills to a tortfeasor via a lawsuit or otherwise and/or First and/or Third Party Payment Entity (e.g., an entity other than the Patient's Health Insurance Entity).

Once a signed contract is in place by and between the patient and the Health Care Provider, the Health Care Provider provides necessary services to the patient in the ordinary course, bills the Health Insurance Entity at the Contracted Rates, and receives payment from the Health Insurance Entity for the rendered services at the Contracted Rates.

Subsequently, the Health Care Provider (or someone on behalf of the Health Care Provider) may monitor a variety of sources to determine whether the patient and or their Agent has had compensation paid by a tortfeasor and/or a First and/or Third Party Payment Entity relating to services provided by the Health Care Provider. Monitored sources may, for example, include Court records (electronic or otherwise) as well as the use of various health provider and billing databases, many of which are currently known (but used for other purposes). This may also include providing a questionnaire with the paperwork which the patient fills out and signs at the Health Care Provider's office prior to, during or subsequent to treatment, asking if the injury or reason the patient is seeking care stems directly from an accident or Covered Event, and if so, identification of any pending lawsuits or submission of provider's health bills to a tortfeasor and/or First and/or Third Party Payment Entities. The requesting of treatment records, bills, statements, etc. either by the patient or a representative (agent) of the patient may also be a trigger, alerting the Health Care Provider and related staff that compensatory invoicing may be appropriate.

Monitoring may further be performed manually and/or electronically at predetermined intervals or otherwise. Additionally, the patient may also allow the Health Care Provider to bill the First and/or Third Party Payment Entity as well as collect from the patient and/or their Agent any compensation paid by a tortfeasor to the patient and/or their Agent. Whichever the case, the Health Care Provider (or agent) enforces the billing contract between the Health Care Provider and the patient to effect compensatory invoicing and collect the difference between the Full Rates and the Contracted Rates in appropriate circumstances.

According to an aspect of the invention, a system is provided, which enables the review and subsequent auditing of past patient records by comparing them against a monitoring system allowing the Health Care Provider to effect compensatory invoicing and collect any difference(s) between their Full Rate(s) and Contracted Rate(s) for rendered services if the patient and/or their agent/representative uses the Health Care Provider's bills and has compensation paid by a tortfeasor and/or First and/or Third Party Payment Entity (e.g., an entity other than the Patient's Health insurance Entity).

In one implementation, the system may comprise a computer system, and the computer system may further host, interface with, or otherwise enable access to a billing management application for tracking information/contracts for those patients who are seeking payment for healthcare services (either in full or in part) from a tortfeasor and/or a First and/or Third Party Payment Entity (other than the Patient's Health Insurance Entity). The billing management application may comprise an "add-on" application to existing or subsequently developed billing applications, or may comprise a separate "stand-alone" application.

In one implementation, the computer system (and billing application) may be in operative communication with one or more external data sources (e.g., legal databases that include information on Court proceedings and other data sources). Information gathered from the one or more external data sources may be maintained, for example, in one or more associated databases. The information may comprise, among other things, information on claims filed by patients (contracting with the Health Care Provider) and/or their Agent against any tortfeasor and/or First and/or Third Party Payment Entity (other than the patient's Health Insurance Entity) and the status of any such proceedings related to the claims. The information may also comprise data on any payment-related activities that have occurred between contracted patients and any tortfeasor and/or First and/or Third Party Payment Entity.

For each patient contracting with the Health Care Provider, die billing management application may generate reports on-demand, or at pre-determined intervals, that include the current status of any efforts by the particular contracting patient to recover money from a patient and/or Agent in lieu of a tortfeasor's compensation as well as a First and/or Third Party Payment. Entity (other than the patient's Health insurance Entity).

In one implementation, if a patient has been compensated by a tortfeasor and/or First and/or Third Party Payment Entity, the billing management application may generate, pursuant to the contract between the patient and the Health Care Provider, a bill for the difference between the Health Care Provider's Full Rates (for services rendered by the Health Care Provider to the patient) and the payment received by the Health Care Provider from the Health Insurance Entity at the Contracted Rates.

Various other objects, features, and advantages of the invention will be apparent through the detailed description of the preferred embodiments and the drawings attached hereto. It is also to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following detailed description are exemplary and not restrictive of the scope of the invention. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Legislation to Reduce Violence in Workplace

Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), a senior Member of the House Education and Labor Committee, introduced legislation this week to curb rising rates of workplace violence facing health care and social service employees such as nurses, physicians, emergency responders, medical assistants, and social workers.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sanders Proposes Universal Health Care: The Path to Federalization


Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has announced a plan to move forward with a Universal Medical Care program in the US. The concept will absorb the nation's ailing the medical workers' compensation delivery system into a universal care system.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Telehealth Extended for Two Years in New Jersey

Governor Murphy yesterday signed legislation (S-2559-12/21/2021 Approved P.L.2021, c.310) that extends for the next two years the requirement adopted at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic that health benefits plans reimburse health care providers for telehealth and telemedicine services at the same rate as in-person services, with limited exceptions. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Health Reform Coverage for Asbestos Victims Expands

The Federal health reform medical coverage for asbestos victims is expanding in Libby Montana. The announcement was made by Senator Baucus who sponsored the innovated unified Federal healthcare legislation that is a national pilot program for the treatment of occupational illness and diseases.. 

"Libby Care" is an innovated plan under which the Federal government provides medical care to those who were exposed to asbestos fiber in the geographical area of the Libby asbestos mines. The mines were operated by WR Grace. The program is a pilot plan providing for free coverage to asbestos victims and is administered by Medicare. The pilot program may expand the Federal government's future role  in providing  medical coverage for all occupational exposure claims and thus avoid the litigious and burdened workers' compensation medical treatment system.

Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus today announced additional asbestos-related health services to be included under the health care coverage he secured for Lincoln County asbestos victims in the Affordable Care Act.

"The people of Libby and Lincoln County suffered a horrendous injustice in the name of greed, and we have a responsibility to help them heal however we can. We secured a Public Health Emergency Declaration in Libby to make sure these folks had access to all the tools they needed. Providing Libby victims with the consistent, reliable, health care they are entitled to under the law is the least we can do to help right this outrageous wrong," Baucus said.

Dr. Brad Black, Medical Director of the Center for Asbestos Related Disease in Libby said, "CARD, our patients, and the Libby community greatly appreciates Senator Baucus' work to secure legislation to provide long-term asbestos health benefits and screening. Medicare benefits, the Medicare Pilot Program for Asbestos Related Disease and ongoing asbestos screening are critical services for the affected population of today and tomorrow."

CARD is a community based non-profit organization established in 2000 that is committed to providing asbestos screening and healthcare related to the Libby asbestos exposure.

"While some in Congress are trying to end Medicare as we know it for Montanans, we strengthened it and improved access to better health care for folks in places like Libby," said U.S. Senator Jon Tester. "Today the people of Libby have better access to the health care services they need and deserve. It's a powerful investment in Montana's people."

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said today the agency would begin covering the additional benefits July 1, 2011 under a permanent pilot program Baucus included in the Affordable Care Act to ensure Libby victims received the full range of services needed to treat asbestos diseases. Benefits cover services not already included under Medicare coverage Libby asbestos victims now receive under the law, including:

  • Special home care services;
  • Special medical equipment;
  • Help with travel to get care;
  • Special counseling, for example, help quitting smoking;
  • Nutritional supplements; and
  • Prescription drugs not covered by Medicare drug plans (Participants in the Pilot Program must be in a Medicare drug plan to receive this benefit.)
According to CMS, individuals participating in the Pilot Program will also be able to work with a nurse case manager to coordinate their health benefits and receive individualized care planning.

Today's news is the third step in Baucus' provisions to secure health care coverage for Libby under the Affordable care Act. In Spring 2010, as part of Baucus' provisions, victims of asbestos exposure in Lincoln County began getting care under Medicare. In March of 2011, Baucus announced a grant program to help Lincoln County health care providers screen for asbestos-related diseases. Before the new program announced today, Libby asbestos victims relied on temporary and uncertain grants programs to receive the additional care they needed.

Individuals can call 1-888-469-9464 to enroll in the pilot by phone or visit the websitewww.noridianmedicare.com/ard beginning June 14.

Earlier this year Baucus was announced as the 2011 Tribute of Hope Award recipient by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) for his tireless efforts fighting on behalf of residents of Libby, Lincoln County and Asbestos victims everywhere. In March, the Senate unanimously passed Baucus' resolution to designate the first week of April 2011 as "Asbestos Awareness Week," and call attention to Libby and other victims of asbestos-related disease.

Additional background on Baucus' longstanding efforts to secure declaration of a Public Health Emergency in Libby:

Baucus has been a long-time champion of asbestos awareness in his efforts to declare the mining tragedy in Lincoln County a public health emergency and make sure folks there have access to the clean-up tools and health care they need.

Since news reports first linked widespread deaths and illness to exposure to deadly asbestos fibers at the defunct W.R Grace and Co. mine, Baucus has visited Libby more than 20 times, secured millions for healthcare and cleanup, brought numerous White House cabinet secretaries to the town, helped save the CARD clinic, and has dogged the EPA to keep cleanup efforts moving forward.

The mine near Libby, Montana, was the source of over 70 percent of all vermiculite sold in the U.S. from 1919 to 1990. There was also a deposit of asbestos at that mine, so the vermiculite from Libby was contaminated with asbestos. Vermiculite from Libby was used in the majority of vermiculite insulation in the U.S. and was often sold under the brand name Zonolite.

As far back as 1999, Baucus wrote a letter to then Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala requesting immediate medical help and assistance to the area. He further lambasted the EPA's decision to not declare a Public Health Emergency, calling it an "outrage." 

In 2008, Baucus released a report detailing a 2002 attempt by the EPA to declare a Public Health Emergency in Libby that was thwarted by the previous Administration's Office of Management and Budget. And on June 17, 2009, due in large part to Baucus' efforts, the EPA declared its first ever public health emergency in Libby, Montana.

After securing the declaration, Baucus fought hard, as a key author of the Affordable Care Act, to make sure the law included a mechanism for residents of Libby and Lincoln County to access the health care they were entitled to as victims of a public health emergency. As a result, Libby residents began receiving coverage under Medicare in Spring 2010.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Universal Medical and Workers' Compensation: It's Not "If", It's "When" - California

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is going to definitely change the landscape of medical delivery over the coming future. Medical care afforded by workers' compensation delivery systems will ultimately be merged into a universal national program, despite all the opposition along the way.

My friend, and cycling inspiration, who keeps me trying to think I can enter the Tour de France while under the influence of Starbucks coffee, David DePaolo, points out that the "fusion" may be coming slowly through legislation of unintended consequences in California.
"The concept of universal care, 24 hour care, single stop shop, etc. has been floating for a couple of decades now with very little progress.

"But the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the signing of HB 1 back in February 2009, and other Federal health related laws and regulations including ERISA, have accelerated the fusion of workers' compensation medicine and general health medicine. Outsourcing MPN [Medical Provider Networks] oversight to a health care related agency is just another step towards this outcome.
David, an expert in analyzing what's around the curve, sees the next wave of change coming to workers' compensation. For so many reasons, including the expansion/reimbursement integration of the Medicare program, the writing is on the wall on this one. 

Every time the lobbyists think that have eliminated the imminent threat of Federal intrusion, ie. Enactment of The SMART Act, the reality of which is that the regulations will eat up the statute, and also their lunch. I plan to write more on The SMART Act in the coming weeks. Maybe that wasn't so smart after all for the cottage industries that supported it.

Friday, April 10, 2020

HHS Relaxes HIPAA Rules During COVID Pandemic

The US Department of Health and Human Services has published a “Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency,” that eases the enforcement of medical record privacy. As workers’ compensation providers increasingly employ electronic communication with their patients, these rules will have a major impact on how medical care is provided.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Health Care Continues to Eat Away at Employee Earnings

Family Health Premiums Rise 4 Percent to Average $15,745 in 2012, National Benchmark Employer Survey Finds


Throughout the nation Workers' Compensation systems have been impacted by health care costs that now take a large piece of the premium dollar. Traditional health care offered by employers mirrors the same problem of economic stress. Running two parallel systems creates added costs and  delays the delivery of medical care. The recent Kaiser Survey just released for 2012 reports that costs in the health care field continue to outpace employee compensation. 

Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached $15,745 this year, up 4 percent from last year, with workers on average paying $4,316 toward the cost of their coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) 2012 Employer Health Benefits Surveyreleased today.

This year’s premium increase is moderate by historical standards, but outpaced the growth in workers’ wages (1.7 percent) and general inflation (2.3 percent). Since 2002, premiums have increased 97 percent, three times as fast as wages (33 percent) and inflation (28 percent).

“In terms of employee insurance costs, this year’s 4 percent increase qualifies as a good year, but it still takes a growing bite out of middle-class workers’ wages, which have been flat or falling in real terms,” Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman, Ph.D. said.

“Premium growth is at historic lows, which greatly benefits workers. Continuing to ensure that Americans have coverage options that are affordable is vitally important for our nation’s health,” said Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H., president of HRET and senior vice president for research at the American Hospital Association.

The 14th annual Kaiser/HRET survey of more than 2,000 small and large employers provides a detailed picture of trends in employer-sponsored health insurance costs and coverage. In addition to the full report and summary of findings being released today, the journal Health Affairs is publishing a Web First article with select findings, and Dr. Altman authored a “Pulling It Together” column reflecting on this year’s results.

The survey reveals significant differences in the benefits and worker contributions toward family premiums between firms with many lower-wage workers (at least 35 percent of workers earn $24,000 or less a year) and firms with many higher-wage workers (at least 35 percent of their workers earn $55,000 or more a year).

Workers at lower-wage firms on average pay $1,000 more each year out of their paychecks for family coverage than workers at higher-wage firms ($4,977 and $3,968, respectively). This occurs even though the firms with many lower-wage workers on average pay less in total premiums for family coverage than firms with many higher-wage workers ($14,694 and $16,427, respectively).

In addition, workers at lower-wage firms are also more likely to face high deductibles than those at higher-wage firms. Specifically, 44 percent of covered workers at firms with many low-wage workers face an annual deductible of $1,000 or more, compared with 29 percent of those at firms with many high-wage workers. Across all employers, a third of covered workers (34 percent) face a deductible of that size, including 14 percent with deductibles of at least $2,000 annually.

“This year’s survey suggest that working families at the low end of the wage scale face significant out of pocket costs for coverage,” said study lead author Gary Claxton, a Kaiser Vice President and director of the Foundation’s Health Care Marketplace Project. “Firms with many lower-wage workers ask employees to pay more out of pocket than firms with many higher-wage workers even though the coverage itself tends to be less comprehensive.”

Health Reform and Employers

The survey estimates that 2.9 million young adults are currently covered by employer plans this year as a result of a provision in the 2010 Affordable Care Act that allows young adults up to age 26 without employer coverage of their own to be covered as dependents on their parents’ plan. That’s up from the 2.3 million in the 2011 survey. Young adults historically have been more likely to be uninsured than any other age group.

The survey also finds that 48 percent of covered workers are in “grandfathered” plans as defined under health reform, down from 56 percent last year. Grandfathered plans are exempted from some health reform requirements, including covering preventive benefits with no cost sharing and having an external appeals process. To retain this status, employers must not make significant changes to their plans to reduce benefits or increase employee costs.

Employer Expectations for 2013

In addition to the comprehensive survey conducted in the spring, employers were asked in August whether they had information about the change in premiums (or total cost for self-funded plans) for their current health plan with the largest enrollment. The average increase reported by employers who had received information for their current plan is 7 percent.

These early reports may not match what employers and workers ultimately end up paying next year, as firms can raise deductibles or otherwise change the health benefits and plans they offer to lower premiums. This year, for example, more than half (54 percent) of employers who offer health benefits reported that they had shopped around for new coverage. Of that group, significant shares switched carriers (18 percent) or changed the type of plans they offer (27 percent).

Other findings from the study include:
Worker-only coverage. Premiums for worker-only health coverage increased 3 percent in 2012 to reach $5,615 annually. Workers on average pay $951 toward this coverage.
Offer rate. This year, 61 percent of firms offer health benefits to their workers – statistically unchanged from last year. 

Cost-sharing for office visits, emergency care and drugs. Covered workers facing co-payments for in-network physician office visits on average pay $23 for primary care and $33 for specialty care. For emergency-room visits, average co-pays are $118. For drug plans with three or more tiers, average co-pays are $10 for generic drugs, $29 for preferred brand-name drugs, $51 for non-preferred brand-name drugs, and $79 for specialty drugs.
Domestic partner benefits. In 2012, 31 percent of employers offer health benefits to same-sex domestic partners, up from 21 percent three years earlier. This year 37 percent of firms offer such benefits to unmarried opposite-sex partners, up from 31 percent in 2009.
Flexible Spending Accounts and Pre-Tax Premiums. Large employers are more likely than small ones to allow workers to pay their share of premiums with pre-tax income (91 percent, compared to 41 percent) and to contribute pre-tax dollars to Flexible Spending Accounts (76 percent, compared to 17 percent).

Now in its 14th year, the survey is a joint project of the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. The survey was conducted between January and May of 2012 and included 3,326 randomly selected, non-federal public and private firms with three or more employees (2,121 of which responded to the full survey and 1,205 of which responded to a single question about offering coverage). A research team at Kaiser, HRET and NORC at the University of Chicago, led by Kaiser’s Gary Claxton, designed, conducted and analyzed the survey. For more information on the survey methodology, please visit the Survey Design and Methods Section at http://ehbs.kff.org.
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For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman 1.973.696.7900 jon@gelmans.com have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered work related accident and injuries.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Why Health Care Is Stuck — And How to Fix It

Medical costs approximate the largest majority of costs in workers' compensation claims. Today's post was shared by NEJM and comes from blogs.hbr.org


20130918_2

The pressures for fundamental change in health care have been building for decades, but meaningful change has been limited while the urgency of change only grows. The moment of discontinuity has arrived. Already unsustainable costs, an aging population, advances in medicine, and a growing proportion of patients in low reimbursement government programs have made the status quo unsustainable. Change is inevitable.

There is only one real solution, which is to dramatically increase the value of health care. Value is the outcomes achieved for patients relative to the money spent. Without major improvements in value, services will need to be restricted, the incomes of health care professionals will fall, and patients will be asked to pay even more.

In our October Harvard Business Review article “The Strategy That Will Fix Health Care”we describe the strategic agenda that is necessary to create a high value health care delivery system. We believe that there is no longer any doubt about how to increase the value of care. The question is whether providers can make the necessary changes.
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Workers’ Compensation 2013 – What Happens on the Other Side of The Fiscal Cliff?

The fiscal reality is that workers’ compensation is in greater jeopardy than ever before as the debate in Washington is not about the deficit at all. The debate is about government spending which includes health care.

Overall health care devours 18 percent of the US economy and amounts to 25% of the Federal budget.

Medical treatment for injured workers continues to be delayed, denied and limited under current workers’ compensation programs. Medical costs continue to be shifted to other programs including employer based medical care systems and the Federal safety net of Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Administration and Tricare.

While a trend continues to emerge to offer “Opt Out” and “Carve Out Programs,” they are not global enough to solve the critical budget deficit issues. The latest emerging trend is for employers to utilize ERISA based medical care plans to efficiently delivery medical care. In NJ a limited alternate dispute-resolution procedure between unions and employers has been introduced. See “NJ Care Outs –Another Evolutionary Step” authored by David DePaolo.

The US economy continues to be very weak. This in an ominous signal for the nation’s workers’ compensation program which is starved for premium dollars. Premiums are based upon salaries and real median incomes continued their dramatic decline over the last decade from $54,841 in 2000 to $50,054 in 2011. There just may not be enough dollars available in the workers’ compensation programs to pay for present and lifetime medical care.

Even the present Federal system leaves much to be desired. Whether Federal rationing medical care becomes a reality is unknown. Physicians are under economic scrutiny as the “Doc Fix” to limit provider fees continues as a cloud over all medical programs. The agreement reached by Congress still does not resolve the 26.5% percent cut reimbursement cut to physicians who treat Medicare patients. The law merely "freezes" payment to physicians.

Workers’ compensation programs presently structured provide no real economic incentive to monitor and compensate for more favorable medical outcomes. On the other hand, the Federal government, with broad and sweeping regulatory ability, is able to continue to make strides in many areas including present incentives to hospitals and proposed incentives to physicians to provide medical treatment with fewer complications and ultimate better outcomes


Steven Ratner in the NY Times points out the dramatic increase in the nation’s health care costs. He wrote, “…no budget-busting factor looms larger than the soaring cost of government-financed health care, particularly Medicare and Medicaid.”



Solving the economic gridlock of the country will require an approach to re-invent a medical program for injured workers. A global single-payer program under Federal control will eliminate duplicative administrative State and private efforts. The Federal government has the clout to provide efficient enforcement and co-ordination.

Now that we are on the other side of the fiscal cliff, the opportunity to be creative is possible. The US needs to transition to a single-payer health care system subsuming a medical care program for injured and ill workers who suffer both traumatic and occupational conditions.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Just Go to The Emergency Room

Emergency room medicine is becoming an easy avenue for work-related medical care as employers and insurance carriers keep restricting traditional medical care access. Over the past decades it is becoming increasingly difficult for workers who have suffered occupational accidents or diseases to obtain quick, efficient and authorized diagnostic services and medical treatment.

A recent RAND study now validates that an alternate route is increasingly being used to access the medical care system, the emergency room. Few restrictions exists to enter an emergency room door. The red tape imposed by insurance carriers is eliminated, and the concept of deny and delay are non-existent in emergency room medicine.

Hospital emergency departments play a growing role in the U.S. health care system, accounting for a rising proportion of hospital admissions and serving increasingly as an advanced diagnostic center for primary care physicians, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

While often targeted as the most expensive place to get medical care, emergency rooms remain an important safety net for Americans who cannot get care elsewhere and may play a role in slowing the growth of health care costs, according to the study.

Emergency departments are now responsible for about half of all hospital admissions in the United States, accounting for nearly all of the growth in hospital admissions experienced between 2003 and 2009.

Despite evidence that people with chronic conditions such as asthma and heart failure are visiting emergency departments more frequently, the number of hospital admissions for these conditions has remained flat. Researchers say that suggests that emergency rooms may help to prevent some avoidable hospital admissions.

"Use of hospital emergency departments is growing faster than the use of other parts of the American medical system," said Dr. Art Kellermann, the study's senior author and a senior researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "While more can be done to reduce the number of unnecessary visits to emergency rooms, our research suggests emergency rooms can play a key role in limiting growth of preventable hospital admissions."

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Health Reform Act Charts a New Course for Occupational Health Care

The occupational healthcare program embodied in the recently enacted legislation has the potential for being the most extensive, effective and innovated system ever enacted for delivering medical care to injured workers. The “Libby Care” provisions, and its envisioned prodigies, will embrace more exposed workers, diseases and geographical locations, than any other program of the past. Potential pilot programs  will now be available to injured workers and their families who have become victims of the failed workers’ compensation occupational disease medical care system.
The legislation initially establishes a program for the identification, monitoring and treatment of those who were exposed to asbestos in Libby Montana where W.R. Grace formerly operated an asbestos (vermiculite) mine producing, among other things, attic insulation. The plant belched thousands of pounds of asbestos fiber into the air of the geographical area daily. Libby Montana has been declared a Federal Superfund Site and the asbestos disease that remains as its legacy has been declared a National Public Health Emergency.
The newly enacted national health care law will have profound effect upon the treatment of occupational disease.  Placed deep within the text of the bill (H.R. 3590), on page 836 (Section 1881A Medical Coverage for Individuals Exposed to Environmental Health Hazards), is the new occupational medical care model, “Libby Care.”  The Manager’s Amendment, embracing the concept of universal occupational health care, inserted in the final moments of the debate, will make all the difference in world to the future of medical care and the handling of work-related illnesses.
What We Learned From History
Historically it is well known that occupational diseases are problematic issues confronting workers’ compensation.They are problematic for all stakeholders in the system. For employers, it is difficult to defend a claim that may occur over a lengthy working period, ie. 280 days per year. Defending occupational disease claims has always been an elusive and a costly goal for employers and insurance carriers. Employees also are confronted with obstacles in obtaining timely medical benefits. Occupational disease claims are universally contested matter and medical care is therefore delayed until the claim is successfully litigated and potentially appealed. This process results in delay and denial of medical care and sometimes death.
In the 1950’s the insurance industry put tag-along verbiage in the statute to modify the 1911 workers’ compensation act to encompass occupational disease claims. This was not a philanthropic gesture, but one rather intended to shield Industry from rapidly spreading silicosis liability in civil actions emerging in the 1950s.
Over time, the failure of the workers’ compensation system to provide adequate medical care to injured workers suffering from occupational illness has given rise to the emergence of several attempted collateral benefit systems by the Federal government. The Black Lung Act-The Federal Coal Mine and Safety Act of 1969 established the Federal Black Lung Trust Fund, which obtained its revenue from the assessment of a percentage tonnage fee imposed on the entire Industry. In October 2000, the Federal government established The Energy Employees Occupational Compensation Program Act that provided a Federal bailout of liability for the monopolistic beryllium industry. The hastily enacted Smallpox Emergency Personnel Protection Act of 2003 (SEPA) shielded pharmaceutical manufacturers from liability.  Following the horrific events of September 11, 2001, the Federal government quickly established The Victims Compensation Fund to compensate the victims and their families through an administrative system.
The largest transfer of economic wealth in the United States from Industry to the private sector, other than in the Attorney General’s thirty-eight State tobacco litigation, emanated from asbestos litigation which had its geneses in workers’ compensation.   The late Irving Selikoff, MD’s pioneering efforts in providing expert testimony, based upon his sentinel studies of asbestos workers in Paterson, NJ, created the trigger mechanism for a massive wave of claims for occupational health care. The program never did adequately nor efficiently or expeditiously provide medical care.
The workers’ compensation system did not provide an adequate remedy because of a constellation of reasons, and subsequently, the wave spread to civil litigation out of desperation for adequate benefits. Asbestos litigation has been named, "The Longest Running Tort” in American history. While the Fairness in Asbestos Resolution Act of 2003, failed to be release from committee, the insurance industry tried to stifle the litigation but the effort failed.  Asbestos litigation expanded into  bankruptcy claims that continue unabated and the epidemic of disease continues. The remaining cases in the Federal court system were transferred to Federal Multi District Litigation (MDL 875) and the majority are finally concluding after twenty years of Panel consolidation. Medical benefits were not a direct component of that system. Unfortunately, asbestos is still not banned in the United States and the legacy of disease continues at historic rates.
The Costs
In a study prepared in 2000 by Dr. Steven Markowitz for a book entitled “Cost of Occupational Injuries  and Illnesses”, it was revealed that the direct medical costs attributed to occupation illness by taxpayers, amount to $51.8 Billion dollars per year for the hospital physicians and pharmaceutical expenses. Overall workers’ compensation is covering 27% percent of the cost. This amounts to 3% of the National Gross National Product. The cost is passed on to: employers, insurance carriers, consumers, injured workers and the taxpayer. Medicare, a target of the cost shifting mechanism employer by Industry, continues its “pay and chase” policy in an effort to seek reimbursement under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act. All the stakeholders and the compensation systems have become increasingly bogged down as cost-shifting continues by Industry. The workers' compensation claims process has become stagnant. 
Reportable Data A Questionable Affair
The quantification of occupational illness data has been very problematic as it is based on sources of questionable reliability. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) based its collection on employer driven safety reporting, ieNCCI), keeps its data and procedures under wraps.
Both the NY Times and Nebraska Appleseed have reported that there exists underreporting of occupational disease conditions in epic proportions. They report that the elements of fear and intimidation directed to injured workers compound the defense attitude of employers and the insurance industry resulting in a massive underreporting of occupationally related medical conditions.
Increased Hurtles for Compensability
There have been attempts over the years to integrate more claims statutorily into the workers’ compensation system to shield employers from civil action and resultant large liability verdicts. This resulted in a flood of occupational exposure claims into the workers’ compensation arena. An effort in the mid-1980’s, following the asbestos litigation explosion, was by Industry to contain costs and restrict the payment of occupational disease claims even further in the workers’ compensation.
The initial effort was to create higher threshold standards and requirements in the area of mental stress claims. That was quickly followed by efforts to limit orthopedic and neurological carpal tunnel claims.  Restrictive language interpreting what is peculiar to employment further limited all occupational disease claims.
Furthermore, scientific evidence proof requirements became increasingly difficult to surmount. Daubert type arguments emerged by the defense in the nations’ workers’ compensation forums where simplicity of a remedial and efficient benefit delivery program had existed in the past. Where a biological marker was not present, as was in asbestos exposure claims, the establishment of causal relationship was universally challenged.
Pre-existing and co-existing factors soon became other hurtles for injured workers and their families.  Medical histories of orthopedic difficulties such as back conditions soon complicated repetitive motion trauma litigation. Co-existing and pre-existing smoking habits, family genetics and obesity were yet another obstacle to recovery.
Societal Habits Changed
Life and the way we look at work have changed dramatically with the onset of technology. Off-premises work is becoming more and more common with the advent of Internet access and economic globalization. Defining the barriers between work and pleasure has grown to be exceedingly difficult.
People are working harder and longer. More chronic conditions are prevalent in older workers. Disease increases with age and results in more total disability claims.
Occupational Medical Costs
The compensability of occupational claims is much more difficult to sustain in court. In recent studies over 99.9% of occupational deaths and 93.8% of the medical costs of occupational disease were held to be non-compensable. Over 50% of the lifetime medical costs are incurred during the last year of one’s life.
The Legacy of The Libby Montana Gold Rush
In 1881 gold miners discovered vermiculite, a form of asbestos in Libby, Montana. In 1920 The Zonolite Company was established and began to commercially mine vermiculite. W.R. Grace bought the mining operations in 1963. In 1990 the mine was closed and production ended.
For decades W.R. Grace belched over 5,000 pounds of asbestos into the air in and around Libby on a daily basis. The residents who worked at the plant and their families and household contacts were exposed to asbestos fiber.  Mineworkers brought home the asbestos on their clothing. The unknowing inhabitants and their families  used the asbestos to fill their gardens, their driveways, the high school track, the little league field and in their attics for insulation.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) visited Libby in 1999 and investigated the incidence of disease and the contamination of the site. The EPA declared Libby a Superfund site in October 2002 and a physical clean-up began of the geographical area. The question of who would pay for the medical care of Libby remained an unknown.
A Manager’s Amendment
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, utilizing a mechanism known as “A Manager’s Amendment,” at the last moment, modified the Senate’s version of the Health Care Reform Bill. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed the Senate, ultimate cleared the House and was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. Section 10323, Medicare Coverage for Individuals Exposed to Environmental Health Hazards, 2009 Cong US HR 3590, 111th Congress, 1st Session (December 31, 2009).
Senator Bacus said,  “This provision is important because it will provide vital medical services to American who—through no fault of their own—have suffered horrible effects from their exposure to deadly poisons. It will provide vital medical services we owe these Americans under our commitment in the Superfund Act.”  The amendment initially provides for screening and medical care to residents of the Libby Montana asbestos contaminated site that was owned and operated by W.R. Grace. It essentially provides for universal health care.
“Libby Care” Is The New Occupational Medical Care Model Legislation
The Libby site qualified for the medical program because the hazardous asbestos contaminated site in Libby was deemed to be “a public health emergency” on June 17, 2009 as defined by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). While there are 1700 designated Superfund sites, Libby is the first site in the history of the program that has been designated as “a public health emergency.” The program may be expanded in adopted to other communities at the discretion of the Secretary of of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 
The plan authorizes a grant for initial medical screening purposes. The screening would determine if a medical condition is present that is attributable to the environmental exposure. It allows those individuals with a diagnosed medical condition due to the environmental exposure at the site to get Medicare services. The Secretary of the Department of HHS may establish additional pilot programs to provide additional medical care appropriate for the residents of contaminated communities so designated. The delivery of Medicare medical benefits will be directed to those “who have suffered horrible effects from their exposure to deadly poisons.”
The purpose of the legislation is  “…. to furnish such comprehensive, coordinated and cost-effective care to individuals…..” p2224 l3-1. It mandates the furnishing of “Flexible Benefits and Services,” for items, benefits or services NOT covered or authorized by the Act. It further authorizes the institution of “Innovative Reimbursement Methodologies,” for reimbursement subject to offsets for individuals “eligible to receive public or private plan benefits or legal agreement.” p2226 ll8-11. The Secretary of HHS will maintain “waiver authority.”
Charting A New Course
After a century of struggle, the United States now embarks upon a new course for occupational medical care. The law charts a new path for the delivery of  occupational disease medical benefits on a timely basis. It will permit researchers an avenue for the collection of epidemiological data so that the workplace can be made safer. All will benefit. The innovative legislation provides for a long awaited and much needed initiative to provide an efficient, responsive and coordinated treatment plan and preventive health program that hopefully will expand and will vastly improve occupational health care.