THE TORCH: ON LINE EDITION---April 2008
THE DIGITAL WORLD
The world is going digital. Computerization of many services will be encoded in digital formatting. And, it will impact many of the items in our daily routine and provide almost instantaneous transmission of information. Many are already familiar with electronic banking and the idea that checks may take no longer than a few minutes to clear or the automatic deduction from an EZPass as you drive through a tool booth or under a scanner. The digital revolution is ongoing and will be felt in almost all areas of our daily lives.
On February 17, 2009, the old analogue format is out and all television transmissions will be in digital format. The Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA) is working with ITT on a new digital radar tracking system for airplanes, due by 2011, where every plane will know where all of the other planes are at any given moment, both on the ground and in the air. And, digital is moving into the health care system.
Health Information Technology (HIT) is a system of electronic record keeping of health records. It will be the universal system for all Americans by 2014. The Kingston Trust Fund’s health administrator, National Health Administrator’s Inc. has already begun digitizing claims through their new office, but it has not been without its complexities. As Don Goldman, M.D., a professor at Harvard Medical School, stated in the March issue of the AARP Bulletin, “HIT has huge potential,…but we shouldn’t underestimate the complexity and the cost.” New electronic data lines have to be meshed with new computer software programs and all data, from eligibility lists to benefit schedules, must be imported from the old analogue systems. For NHAI, all information stays within their system and all privacy rights are protected. Congress will decide the eventual extent of the information system.
It is anticipated that all doctors, hospitals, and drug providers will be on some part of the digital system. It is anticipated that the computerization of all health records will avoid medical mistakes and improve care. A doctor could have immediate access to all of your health records. Today, anyone might be seeing several doctors with each having no information on your complete medical history, lab results, or prescription medications other than what the patient provides. It’s might be especially important where a person arrives at a hospital unconscious and doctors have no medical history on the patient. This aspect of HIT involves previously protected private material arriving on a major nationwide, maybe even worldwide database. The concern revolves around privacy rights and Congress has yet to resolve the issue. Obviously, a patient wants control of those records and the providing of any information might need to be on a voluntary ‘need to know basis’ and, perhaps, only for a specific time period.
Columbia Hospital in Hudson has received a $1 million grant to digitize all of their records. The merger of Kingston and Benedictine hospitals will result in computerization of services. Private communications between providers and insurers demands that, for efficient service, all be on the same system. Every year will see more and more doctors and facilities computerizing their operations to interact with insurers. The Kingston Trust Fund, NHAI, and prescription provider Medco have already made the commitment with digitized computer claims processing and will continue to convert other documents, like eligibility and enrollment lists, to the new system, and all within the scope of privacy rights.
As with all change, there is a learning curve during implementation. The hope is for an improved system that reduces errors, guarantees privacy, and enhances the quality of life.
PANDEMIC FLU PLANNING
If a pandemic flu hits, it could have tremendous impact on employment, health care, health insurance, and community services. Public, private, and higher education schools can be expected to close for some period in order to limit the spread of the illness. The New York State Education Department anticipates that school closures as long as 12 weeks could occur. The joint statement to school administrators reads, "Many schools may close and available evidence indicates that school closure (perhaps as long as 12 weeks in duration) early in a pandemic may significantly reduce influenza transmission." What is the impact on salaries, sick time, unemployment, and health care costs?
All over the world, public and private sector employees are developing written plans to prepare for a possible pandemic flu outbreak. Issues include: facility closure, lengthy absenteeism because of personal or family illness, identification of critical job functions, continuity of education/alternate learning, and payroll and communication operations. Every school district needs to have a plan in place for these catastrophic events. The World Health Organization indicates that on a cyclical basis, with the last pandemic in 1917-18, the time may be near for another occurrence. The 1917-18 pandemic killed millions worldwide.
We face a new flu strain with the beginning of every winter season and the objective is to limit its spread. "We want to get people in better habits to prevent seasonal flu so if a pandemic hits they're going to be in a better position because of hygiene habits," said NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue.
Tips from the experts include:
Darryl Alexander, AFT's health and safety program director, has recommended to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that, with a pandemic flu, health care workers, including school nurses, use a respirator at least as protective as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-certified N95 respirator, a gown, gloves and eye protection.
The KRTF St. Patrick’s Day luncheon was a great success. The food and company were fabulous.
Out-of-Network providers charge a higher % than what is allowed by your plan. Recently a member brought in an Explanation of Benefits. They were questioning the amount paid by NHAI. The simple biopsy performed has a usual, customary, and reasonable (UCR) fee of under $500.00. This out-of-network provider charged over $4000.00. In my twenty years experience of surgical billing, I have never seen a Biopsy of this nature charged out above $500.00.
As a consumer, you have the right to ask in advance what the charge will be for any surgical procedure to be performed. You may check with NHAI to confirm if the fee falls within the usual and customary range. If the proposed charges are higher, you may want to consider other options. As a consumer, it is time we let providers know that we will no longer permit out-of-network providers to take advantage of such situations.
We appreciate those members who are conscientious in reviewing their medical bills. As we transcend through the digital computerization of claims, please continue to contact the Kingston Trust office with any concerns regarding claim payments.
· The Kids’ Classic, age appropriate track races for Nursery School through Grade 8, will be held as part of CLASSIC WEEKEND, Saturday April 19, beginning at 8:30 am at Dietz Stadium. The KTF has been a supporter of the Kids Classic for 10 years and KTF members have volunteered their services to the day’s activities.
Sunday will feature the running of the Kingston Classic, so it’s a big weekend in Kingston for runners and their families.
· Retiring? Any teacher unit member who is retiring without the incentive is reminded that the deadline date for filing a retirement/resignation letter with the district for the purpose of being compensated for unused sick and personal days is May 15, 2008.
· The state budget has passed and there is a significant boost in educational aid to districts. For complete information, go to www.nysut.org. In additional, a special request by the Kingston Schools for start-up funding for a new Montesorri program at George Washington School was approved. The district will receive between $300,000 and $400,000 for training teachers in the program.
· If you would like to listen to and to download a song about the testing that dominates education today, go to www.notonthetest.com. Singer/songwriter Tom Chapin has an enjoyable video with the song that laments the loss of cultural programs in many districts and the negative impact left by testing in the No Child Left Behind agenda.