Category Archives: Doctors

Obama virus D68 aka enterovirus affecting thousands of US children, Dr. Claudia Hoyen, Reported cases tip of iceberg, Coincides with entry of illegal alien children, Obama warned by health professionals

Obama virus D68 aka enterovirus affecting thousands of US children, Dr. Claudia Hoyen, Reported cases tip of iceberg, Coincides with entry of illegal alien children, Obama warned by health professionals

“Barack Obama is endangering the children of the US. Where is the outrage?”…Citizen Wells

“Enterovirus 68 was first identified in a California lab in 1962 after four children came down with a severe respiratory illness. Between 1970 and 2005, only 26 cases of enterovirus 68 in the United States were reported to the CDC. Since 2000, the government agency has kept a closer watch and has seen 47 cases, Oberste said. Outbreaks have occurred over the years in Asia and Europe, but it’s still one of the rarest types of enterovirus.”…CNN February 25, 2014

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”…George Orwell, “1984″

 

 

From ABC News September 15, 2014.

“Respiratory Virus, Enterovirus D68, Likely Infected Thousands But Just Tip of Iceberg

The respiratory virus that’s been sweeping the nation and sending asthmatic children to the hospital may have only been officially reported in 97 children, but experts say that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Dr. Claudia Hoyen said the virus, called enterovirus D68, probably affected thousands of children — and that’s just in Cleveland, where she works. The virus has been reported in 21 states, according to state health departments.

At UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, about 20 children normally go to the intensive care unit each month with respiratory symptoms, said Hoyen, who heads the hospital’s pediatric infection control program. But for the last two months, the hospital’s intensive care unit has treated 80 children per month, she said.

“That’s fourfold over what we would normally get,” Hoyen said.”

“The rare enterovirus starts out like the common cold but can quickly turn more serious — especially in children with asthma. Enteroviruses often appear in the summer and fall, but an outbreak like this hasn’t occurred since the 1960s, Hoyen said.”

Read more:

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/respiratory-virus-enterovirus-d68-infected-thousands/story?id=25519869

Obama opened the floodgates on thousands of illegal aliens and ignored the warnings from healthcare professionals to screen them for disease.

Now he is going to expose thousands of of US soldiers to the Ebola virus which has the potential to expose millions of American civilians to it.

So this is the plan for FEMA camps and Obama martial law.

Sounds more possible now doesn’t it.

 

 

Obama immigration policy leads to outbreaks of hand foot and mouth disease?, Usually affects children under 5, High school football game cancelled, Enterovirus 71 association, Caused deaths in China

Obama immigration policy leads to outbreaks of hand foot and mouth disease?, Usually affects children under 5, High School football game cancelled, Enterovirus 71 association, Caused deaths in China

“Barack Obama is endangering the children of the US. Where is the outrage?”…Citizen Wells

“Enterovirus 68 was first identified in a California lab in 1962 after four children came down with a severe respiratory illness. Between 1970 and 2005, only 26 cases of enterovirus 68 in the United States were reported to the CDC. Since 2000, the government agency has kept a closer watch and has seen 47 cases, Oberste said. Outbreaks have occurred over the years in Asia and Europe, but it’s still one of the rarest types of enterovirus.”…CNN February 25, 2014

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”…George Orwell, “1984″

 

 

When was the last time you heard of a high school football game being cancelled due to hand foot and mouth disease?

From the Burlington Free Press September 12, 2014.

“Disease outbreak at North Country nixes football game”

“An outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease at North Country Union High School has led to the cancellation of Friday night’s Division II football game between the Newport school and Burr and Burton Academy, according to athletic directors from both schools.”

Read more:

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/sports/high-school/2014/09/11/disease-outbreak-north-country-nixes-football-game/15483713/

From Citizen Wells commenter bob strauss.

“Could be related,
My granddaughter contracted,Hand Foot and Mouth disease a couple of months ago. She lives in north Texas.”

I know a young lady who recently had hand, foot and mouth disease.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common malady in the US.

Is it more common now with the spread of illegal alien children in this country?

From WGVU July 24, 2014.

“The Kent County health Department says it is seeing more cases of hand foot and mouth earlier in the year.  Normally an increase in numbers occurs in August and health officials are unsure why they’re seeing an earlier increase.”

http://www.wgvu.org/wgvunews/index.cfm?id=sdetail&sty=27654

Lest you believe that the disease is not serious.

From the CDC.

“Individual cases and outbreaks of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) occur around the world. In countries with temperate (varying) climates, cases occur more often in the spring to fall.

Since 1997, large outbreaks of HFMD caused by enterovirus 71 have been reported mostly in children in east and Southeast Asia. In these outbreaks, most children have typical symptoms of HFMD and recover without health complications. However, a small number of people with this disease develop severe complications requiring hospitalization or even causing death.”

From The Disease Daily April 17, 2009.

“Over 125,000 cases, and 57 fatalities of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) have been reported by China’s Ministry of Health so far this year. It is estimated that 95% of cases of HFMD have been in children less than 5 years old living in the most rural parts of the country. Regions reporting the greatest number of cases include Henan, Shandong, Jiangsu, Guangxi, Anhui, Guangdong, Hebei, Hubei, Hunan, and Zhejiang, all within China’s agricultural belt where healthcare is minimal. Continuing problems, such as the lack of HFMD prevention training for rural doctors, and the existing fear that government officials are hiding the problem and number of deaths, plague the provinces most severely affected. In addition, with the outbreak not expected to peak until May-July, it is likely that the number of cases and fatalities will rise.”

http://healthmap.org/site/diseasedaily/article/hand-foot-and-mouth-outbreak-spreading-china-41709

From English.news.cn March 21, 2014.

“Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) killed two children within three days in Jinshan District of Shanghai, the district’s health and family planning commission said on Friday.”

“HFMD is caused by a group of viruses known as enterovirus (EV), including EV71, which causes severe complications that can lead to death.”

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2014-03/21/c_133204849.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obama blamed for rising health costs, AP poll, 69 percent say premiums rising, 59 percent deductibles or copayments increasing, Spouse coverage restricted or eliminated, Millions received cancellation notices

Obama blamed for rising health costs, AP poll, 69 percent say premiums rising, 59 percent deductibles or copayments increasing, Spouse coverage restricted or eliminated, Millions received cancellation notices

“If you like your plan, you can keep it.”…Barack Obama

“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period.”…Barack Obama

“millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.”…NBC News October 29, 2013

 

 

From Page A7 of the Greensboro News Record.

“Obama blamed for rising health costs”

From the Washington Times December 16, 2013.

“POLL: Obamacare to drive up health care cost for everyone”

“Just when the government’s insurance websiteis starting to run more smoothly, an Associated Press-GfK poll finds a potentially bigger problem for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Americans who already have coverage and aren’t looking for any more government help are blaming the law for their rising premiums and deductibles.

Those are the 85 percent of Americans that the White House says don’t have to be worried about the president’s historic push to expand coverage for the uninsured. Overall 3 in 4 say the rollout of coverage for the uninsured has gone poorly as health care remains a politically charged issue going into next year’s midterm congressional elections.

In the survey, nearly half of those with job-based or other private coverage say their policies will be changing next year — mostly for the worse. Nearly 4 in 5 (77 percent) blame the changes on the Affordable Care Act, even though the trend toward leaner coverage predates the law’s passage.

Sixty-nine percent say their premiums will be going up, while 59 percent say annual deductibles or copayments are increasing.

Only 21 percent of those with private coverage said their plan is expanding to cover more types of medical care, though coverage of preventive care at no charge to the patient has been required by the law for the past couple of years.

Fourteen percent said coverage for spouses is being restricted or eliminated, and 11 percent said their plan is being discontinued.

“Rightly or wrongly, people with private insurance looking at next year are really worried about what is going to happen,” said Robert Blendon, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who tracks public opinion on health care issues. “The website is not the whole story.”

Employers trying to control their health insurance bills have been shifting costs to workers for years, but now those changes are blamed increasingly on “Obamacare” instead of the economy or insurance companies.

Political leanings seemed to affect perceptions of eroding coverage, with larger majorities of Republicans and independents saying their coverage will be affected.

The White House had hoped that the Oct. 1 launch of open enrollment season for the uninsured would become a teaching moment, a showcase of the president’s philosophy that government can help smooth out the rough edges of life in the modern economy for working people.

Instead, the dysfunctional website became a parable for Republicans and others skeptical of government.

At the same time, a cresting wave of cancellation notices hit millions who buy their policy directly from an insurer. That undercut one of Obama’s central promises — that you can keep the coverage you have if you like it. The White House never clearly communicated the many caveats to that promise.

Disapproval of Obama’s handling of health care topped 60 percent in the poll.”

Read more:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/dec/16/another-worry-about-new-health-law-ap-gfk-poll/?page=all#pagebreak

 

 

Obamacare hurts doctors and patients, NYC Dr. Patricia McLaughlin testifies before House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Obama keep your insurance and doctors lies

Obamacare hurts doctors and patients, NYC Dr. Patricia McLaughlin testifies before House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Obama keep your insurance and doctors lies
“If you like your plan, you can keep it.”…Barack Obama

“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period.”…Barack Obama

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed
–if all records told the same tale–then the lie passed into
history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the
Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present
controls the past.”…George Orwell, “1984″

 

 

From the NY Post December 11, 2013.

“NYC doctor will testify on ObamaCare woes”

“An Upper East Side ophthalmologist whose ObamaCare woes were spotlighted in The Post has been called to testify before a congressional committee Thursday.

“It shows Washington is listening,” Dr. Patricia McLaughlin said as she prepared for her trek to the halls of power on Capitol Hill.

“All of this thanks to your New York Post article.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is probing the ill effects of the health-care law, invited McLaughlin to testify about how she got hit by an ObamaCare “double whammy.”

First, the eye doctor was notified that she was losing the group health plan that covered her four-person office.

Then, she was dropped from the Empire BlueCross Blue­Shield network, so patients using that insurance plan would have to go elsewhere or pay out of pocket.

McLaughlin said she expects to lose 20 to 25 percent of her patients.

The letter from Empire didn’t specify why McLaughlin was being shut out even while she is listed as a preferred provider under other plans.

The insurance company wouldn’t comment.

Industry insiders say insurers are under pressure to offer cheaper rates for ObamaCare plans and are narrowing their networks of doctors to cut costs.

“I have a double-whammy: I lost my insurance; now my medical practice is going to be losing patients,” McLaughlin told The Post in a story published last month.”

Read more:

http://nypost.com/2013/12/11/nyc-doctor-will-testify-on-obamacare-woes/

Radiologist Milton R. Wolf on Obamacare lies.

From U-T San Diego December 11, 2013.

“There’s just no way around this: President Obama looked America in the eye and lied. The president was so hellbent on “fundamentally transforming” the country with his health care takeover that he intentionally deceived you — he lied — not once or twice, but over and over again.

In 2010, the year Obamacare was signed into law, I wrote “Obamacare’s Unkeepable Promises” in The Washington Times. These false promises were easily predictable and are finally now being exposed. It’s starts with nine words that are unmaking an American presidency.

“If you like your plan, you can keep it.” — Barack Obama, June 2010

Already, 5 million Americans have lost their health insurance plans directly because of the president’s law. By next year, as Obamacare starts tearing through employer-based insurance plans, that number will rise to between 50 million and 100 million Americans.

However, this was just one of Obama’s egregious Obamacare lies. The list goes on.

“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period.” — Barack Obama, June 2010

How can you keep your doctor, though, if your doctor cannot keep his practice? As health insurance companies buckle under the weight of Obamacare, they are narrowing their provider networks in hopes of controlling costs. This, of course, means that your doctor may no longer be allowed to participate in your plan. Other doctors are dropping or limiting Medicare and Medicaid, and some are even dropping out of all private insurance as well. Still others are leaving the practice of medicine altogether. You won’t be able to keep them.”

Read more:

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/dec/11/tp-milton-r-wolf-the-presidents-other-obamacare/

 

 

UnitedHealth largest provider of privately managed Medicare Advantage plans drops thousands of doctors, Obamacare impact, WSJ report, Substantial funding pressure from federal government

UnitedHealth largest provider of privately managed Medicare Advantage plans drops thousands of doctors, Obamacare impact, WSJ report, Substantial funding pressure from federal government

“If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan.”…Barack Obama

“millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.”…NBC News October 29, 2013

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”…Joseph Goebbels

 

 

From Zero Hedge November 16, 2013.
“Nation’s Largest Healthcare Provider Cuts Thousands Of Doctors; Blames Government”

“UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest provider of privately managed Medicare Advantage plans, has dropped thousands of doctors from its networks in recent weeks citing “substantial funding pressure from the federal government.” The WSJ reports that physician groups are protesting as many elderly patients are now unsure about whether they need to switch plans to keep seeing their doctors. Doctors in at least 10 states have received termination letters, some citing “significant changes and pressures in the health-care environment.” UnitedHealth said its provider networks are always changing and that it expects its Medicare Advantage network “to be 85% to 90% of its current size by the end of 2014,” due to the new health law (Obamacare). More job creation?”

“Via WSJ,”
“Medicare Advantage, an alternative to traditional Medicare, combines hospital and doctor coverage and often includes prescription drugs and perks like gym memberships. Enrollment has more than doubled since 2004 to 13 million in 2012, which represents about 27% of Americans on Medicare.

The federal government pays private insurers a per-capita fee to manage the benefits. The rate is currently about 12% more than the average Medicare patient spends annually. The Obama administration plans to cut those extra payments to insurers by about $150 billion over the next 10 years to help pay for the health law. Some experts expect enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans to decline sharply if that occurs.”
“”Instead of a scalpel, United is using a chain saw,” said Michael Saffir, a rehabilitation specialist and president of the Connecticut State Medical Society, which estimates the insurer has cut 2,200 doctors across the state.”

Read more:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-11-16/nations-largest-healthcare-provider-cuts-thousands-doctors-blames-government

 

NC Healthcare service costs soar, Hospitals buy out doctors, Medicare rules let hospitals charge more than independent doctors, Indigent care cost shifting

NC Healthcare service costs soar, Hospitals buy out doctors, Medicare rules let hospitals charge more than independent doctors, Indigent care cost shifting

“If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”…Barack Obama

“If you’ve got health insurance we’re going to work with you to lower your premiums by $2,500 per family per year.”…Barack Obama

“Can we stop calling ObamaCare the Affordable Care Act now?”…Ron Meyer

From the Raleigh News Observer December 16, 2012.

“Doctors join hospitals, and prices soar”

“North Carolina patients pay more for many tests and procedures if their physician is employed by a hospital, an investigation by The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer has found.

It’s true whether the health care offered is a heart stress test or a routine visit to a doctor’s office. And it’s part of a national shift that experts say is raising costs but not quality: Hospitals are increasingly buying doctors’ practices, then sending bills for routine services that are significantly higher than those charged by independent doctors.

By one count, the percentage of doctors nationally who are employed by hospitals has doubled over the past decade. No similar statistics are available in North Carolina, but it’s clear that more and more doctors are affiliating with hospitals.

For example, in the Triangle, about 90 percent of cardiologists work for hospitals, which can charge more for procedures than private practices.

As a result, the cost of many routine medical tests and services has soared, according to Medicare data and insurance claims reviewed by the newspapers.

The same service performed in the same location by the same doctor can cost more than double what it did just a few years ago.

“Prices are increasing, often for no other reason than the sign on the door changed,” said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group representing the insurance industry.

Here’s why: Medicare and private insurers pay more for outpatient care – which includes an allowed facility fee for hospital infrastructure – than for the same procedure in a doctor’s office, which cannot charge a facility fee. A hospital can increase revenue by acquiring a practice and changing the billing to outpatient. Or the hospital can simply convert its doctors’ offices to hospital facilities.

In the Triangle, Duke University Health System has been most aggressive in converting its doctor practices to outpatient entities.

“Outpatient visits (in 2010) increased 12.1 percent over 2009, which was due entirely to converted clinics,” according to a 2011 Duke bond document.

One example: For a common echocardiogram procedure, Duke Hospital submitted 4,879 claims to Medicare in 2010, up 68 percent from the year before. Medicare allows $471 for outpatient echocardiograms, more than twice the $200 allowed for those performed in physician offices.

Hospital officials contend they deserve to be paid more because they have expenses and obligations not shared by independent physicians. They must comply with more regulations, keep many departments staffed at all times and treat all patients, regardless of ability to pay.

Experts agree that hospitals should be reimbursed for the extra services they provide.

But there’s a limit, said Robert Berenson, an analyst at the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center. For many routine services, Medicare pays hospitals about 80 percent more than it pays independent doctors, he said. But he said the additional expenses for a hospital don’t justify that kind of payment difference.

The newspapers’ latest findings underscore the lessons of the newspapers’ previous investigations, which found that the growing market power of nonprofit hospital systems is one of the factors in the rising cost of health care.

Now some public officials are questioning whether hospital systems have grown too big for the public good. Among them is state Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is examining whether to use antitrust laws or push for new legislation to reduce health care costs.

In the meantime, experts say, it’s likely that hospitals will continue to buy doctors’ practices at a rapid clip.

“It’s only going to grow, and it’s going to grow substantially,” said Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change. “It raises the amount people pay. And I don’t think there’s a redeeming benefit to it.”

Jenny Palmer of Durham had been seeing a Duke neurologist for years for her epilepsy. She was furious when her $50 copay turned into a $425 payment applied to her deductible. The visit was less than 10 minutes, Palmer said, as she told the doctor her health was good and she received a prescription for a year’s worth of medicine.

Her bill made no mention of a facility fee, but Duke confirmed it in a letter after she complained.

“This clinic is now owned by Duke University Hospital (DUH) and in addition to the professional fee, there is also a facility fee charged in conjunction with each visit. Both charges are billed as an outpatient service as opposed to an office visit.”

“It makes no financial sense for me to see Duke doctors now,” Palmer wrote to her neighborhood Listserv. “BUT there aren’t many non-Duke doctors in Durham. ARGH!”

Palmer, 41, an administrator of a nonprofit, eventually found a neurologist in Raleigh.

Duke would not comment on Palmer’s case. It has acknowledged the fees in the past but said they were legitimate because of the increased costs of running the doctors’ practices.

‘I was just shocked’

Gay Miller thought she knew what to expect when she received a heart test earlier this year – until she got the bill.

After a heart valve replacement eight years ago, she has been getting periodic echocardiograms at her cardiologist’s office in Shelby to ensure the valves still work properly. Under her insurance plan, the tests used to cost her a $60 copay.

Not this year. During Miller’s annual checkup at the Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute in February, her doctor told her she would need to go to nearby Cleveland Regional Medical Center for her echocardiogram.

At the hospital, Miller received the usual 30-minute test. And the usual technician conducted it.

But there was nothing typical about the bill: Miller wound up owing $952.

“I was just shocked,” said Miller, 64, who lives in Lincoln County west of Charlotte. “I feel like I got taken advantage of.”

Across North Carolina and the U.S., hospitals are increasingly billing for heart tests like these. Experts say the higher bills for those tests are a telling illustration of a structural shift that is leaving patients with higher bills for identical procedures.

In 2005, doctors with Sanger – Charlotte’s oldest and largest group of cardiologists and heart surgeons – became employees of Carolinas HealthCare System, the hospital system that runs Cleveland Regional.

At the time of the merger, officials said Sanger patients wouldn’t notice any difference. Now, however, some Sanger patients who need echocardiograms are diverted to higher-charging hospitals.

Officials for Carolinas HealthCare did not address questions about the case. But in general, the system said, Sanger has been nationally recognized “for cost effectiveness and delivering the most appropriate care to each patient.”

Flocking to hospitals

Until recently, the large majority of physicians worked in doctor-owned practices. But that’s swiftly changing.

Last year, 47 percent of physicians in the U.S. were employed by hospitals – roughly twice the percentage in 2002, according to surveys by the Medical Group Management Association.

That trend is expected to continue, with one health care recruiting company predicting that hospitals could employ as many as 75 percent of all doctors within two years.

About 35 percent of North Carolina cardiologists work for hospitals – almost three times the percentage who did so five years ago, according to a recent survey by the American College of Cardiology.

The irony, some doctors say, is that federal efforts to reduce health care costs have helped drive the trend.

In 2010, Medicare reduced payments to physicians for various cardiology tests while raising payments to hospitals. That prompted many independent doctors to sell to hospitals, which could collect significantly more for the same tests.

Many doctors, however, have been unhappy about the trend. In a recent Physicians Foundation survey, 75 percent of North Carolina doctors said they disagreed “somewhat” or “mostly” with the premise that hospital employment of physicians is a “positive trend likely to enhance quality of care and decrease cost.”

While money helps explain why many doctors have opted to join hospitals, other factors also play a role. By joining hospital systems, many overworked physicians have been able to shorten their workweeks and share on-call duty. Hospitals also take over the complicated back office functions such as billing, negotiating with insurance companies and managing the expensive transition to electronic medical records.

Hospital systems have plenty to gain as well. Purchasing doctors’ offices helps hospitals enlarge their referral networks and boost profitability. It will also help them become Accountable Care Organizations, networks of doctors and hospitals that the architects of President Barack Obama’s health care plan believe will improve quality and efficiency.

Many experts predict that hospital acquisitions of doctors offices will boost prices still higher.

“This is really a historic change in the practice of medicine in the U.S.,” said Dr. William Zoghbi, president of the American College of Cardiology. “It’s more costly to the whole health care system, including patients.”

Dr. Daniel Wise has been on both sides. He was an independent cardiologist, then an employee of Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, and now he’s independent again. He left the hospital because he didn’t agree with its priorities.

But the reduced Medicare reimbursements make him wish he had stayed.

Wise said cardiologists’ incomes have declined by 30 percent to 40 percent in the past three years. “It doesn’t make economic sense anymore to try and do it in the office,” he said.

Two labs, two prices

In late 2011, Bruce Stanley was invited to an open house at WakeMed’s new Brier Creek facility. He nibbled cookies and toured the facility. He liked the convenient location and pleasant staff.

In January, he had two routine blood tests done there. He did them in advance of a physical and wanted to be able to discuss the tests with his doctor.

The results pleased Stanley. The bill did not.

Stanley owed WakeMed $240.82 for two routine blood panels. Three months earlier, he had paid $13.73 for the same tests done at the LabCorp office near Rex Hospital. Stanley didn’t know he would be charged full hospital prices.

“I thought it was a satellite clinic,” said Stanley, 58, a Raleigh businessman.

Debbie Laughery, a WakeMed spokeswoman, said the hospital can’t compete with LabCorp, partly because hospitals have more expensive facilities. Laughery also pointed to the practice of “cost-shifting,” where hospitals pay for charity care for the poor by collecting more from insured patients.

“We have to pay for all of our indigent care somehow,” Laughery said.

Is cost bump justifiable?

For many tests and services, the difference between what hospitals and independent physicians can collect is vast.

Hospitals, for instance, can get about 80 percent more from Medicare than independent physicians for a 15-minute office visit – and more than twice as much for many cardiac tests.

The payments to hospitals are also higher from private insurers. For a common outpatient echocardiogram in 2012, Duke was paid an average of about $1,800 by a private health plan. WakeMed was paid about $1,500; UNC, about $900, according to thousands of private insurance claims reviewed by the newspapers.

The same data showed the average payment to an independent cardiologist for the same test was $480.

Experts say private insurers have little choice but to pay hospitals more. When negotiating contracts with health care providers, insurers can survive without a single doctor’s office in their networks. But they must be able to offer customers access to major hospitals. That gives hospitals power to negotiate higher payment rates.

The employers and workers who share costs for health insurance wind up footing much of the bill. Patients, meanwhile, are left with higher out-of-pocket costs.

Hospital officials say there are valid reasons they can collect more. They say they’re obligated to serve all patients, regardless of ability to pay, while independent doctors can be more selective about which patients they treat.

“Provider-based services are also under state and federal regulatory oversight, while free-standing physicians and clinics are not,” the N.C. Hospital Association said in a written statement.

The association stresses that its members are merely following Medicare rules. Doctors’ offices owned by hospitals are generally allowed to bill Medicare at the higher outpatient rates if they are within 35 miles of the hospital campus and integrate their operations with the hospital.

But some experts and insurers question whether that’s reason enough for patients and taxpayers to pay dramatically higher prices.

Margie Maxwell, president of Aetna’s Southeast market, said: “There is no logic and there is no reason to allow a higher payment because it has now become a hospital billing. … It should not be happening.”

‘Harming consumers’

In a review of Medicare and private health plan data, the newspapers found that North Carolina hospitals are increasingly billing for routine office visits and for echocardiograms.

The number of office visits that North Carolina hospitals billed to Medicare climbed by more than 40 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to data compiled by the American Hospital Directory. And at Duke University Hospital, the number more than tripled.

During the same period, the number of echocardiography claims that North Carolina hospitals billed to Medicare increased more than 20 percent. At Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, the number more than quadrupled.

Berenson, of the Urban Institute, sees nothing redeeming in the trend.

“That’s taking advantage of the payers and really harming consumers,” said Berenson, who previously served as a commissioner of MedPAC, which advises Congress on Medicare policy. “It is not promoting more efficient care.”

Read more: