The clinic I work for as a contractor recently paid me, for my last pay period, an amount of money that was four times my typical earnings. Admittedly, how much I actually get paid fluctuates pretty wildly, but I figured I would have noticed having either 4x in arrears or having seen 4x as many patients as usual. But I'm paid via direct deposit, and the corresponding statement saying what I was getting paid for is put in my mail box at the clinic, so I had to wait till I was back in the clinic – today – to pick it up and find up why I was getting all this money.
The statement mystified me when I got it. It was two whole pages of pairs of canceled previous payments and replacement payments and at first I couldn't make heads or tails of it, and then I realized that I was looking at a statement where almost all the patient sessions listed had happened in 2016.
As I mentioned, last month, for the first time in decades, we got a raise. A big raise. Not big enough to be adequate, but big enough to be astounding. It was, we thought, effective starting May 1.
No. Turns out the raise was retroactive. To – apparently – Oct 1, 2016...
...The day after I posted the final sections of "Why You Can't Find A Therapist, No, Really".
Rumor has it that the raise – more properly, the increase in rate paid by at least two of the Medicaid providers – happened because MassHealth (Massachusetts Medicaid) leaned on them to do so, to fix the emergent strike.
MassHealth? Are... are you there? Are you reading my journal?
If so, thank you! (If not, still thank you!)
I have a few other suggestions for things you could fix!
For instance: I'm currently doing an amazing job (or so my chart reviewer wrote) doing care coordination with a big medical team involving four clinics, three hospitals, and family all involved in the care for a patient with an emergent psychotic illness. I can do that because the patient has MBHP, and MBHP pays for case coordination if it's extramural. I'd like to point out that it's insane that if I have a 15 minute conversation about the diagnostic formulation for a challenging and high-risk case with an in-house psychiatrist, I don't get paid for it (and neither do they), but if I do the same thing with a psychiatrist at a different clinic, I do. How wack is it that I literally wouldn't be able to afford to spend the sort of time on this case that I did (and continue to!) if the patient hadn't coincidentally decided he didn't like my clinic's available psychiatrist and went and found himself another one through his PCP. Surely this can't be the incentive system you want me or the patient (or the psychiatrist) to be functioning under – one where patients are incented to get their psychiatric care from an entirely different facility from their therapist.
And thank goodness that he had MBHP, as pretty much an amazing fluke. No other MassHealth payers pay for care coordination at all. If this guy had been on NHP or Tufts/BMC when he came down with schizophrenia... I shudder to think. Do you realize how much I've been on the phone with MGH's ER and APS and social workers and psychiatrists at local mental hospitals in the last six months?
Don't you think there should be some sort of provision for what happens when someone presents with a psychotic disorder? Like, when a provider slams the big red "R/o Schizophrenia" button, the payer has to start paying for some case coordination? (I'd also recommend that for substance abuse cases, where patients can manipulate providers around meds; and in mandated reporter cases, where you should probably have payers pay therapists for their time filling in DCF/DPPC/DES or whatever.)
I have to think that the time demands of handling such a high-risk case are part of why some – maybe many – therapist are leary of working with psychotic or other high-risk patients. I've been there. I've twice spent four hours – half a work day – keeping a patient in crisis calm and coordinating with the BEST team and then the hospital, and never saw a dime for any of it. Who wants to bring a patient onto their caseload, for whom the total compensation divided across the total hours of work for that one patient come to less than minimum wage?
And I'm just talking about care coordination – I'm not even talking about CPT 90839 and 90840 which last I checked were still universally unfunded. Funding that would be way cool.
I have many other fine suggestions – I swear many of them even aren't just suggestions you pay me more money! I'm happy to talk more about reforms in mental health care.