Software developers at the Wright State Research Institute have developed a system that may dramatically streamline Social Security disability claims.
The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates an individual’s claim for disability benefits; the system will soon use electronic medical records to reduce the decision time from 100 days or more to as little as 48 hours. Researchers at Wright State have dubbed their health information exchange “HealthLink.” They developed it under a $750,000 contract with the SSA. The agency awarded a total of $17.4 million in contracts to 15 health care companies for electronic medical records as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“The use of Health IT will dramatically improve the speed, accuracy and efficiency of this process, reducing the cost of making a disability decision for both the medical community and the American taxpayer,” said SSA commissioner Michael J. Astrue.
HealthLink launched as a pilot program in December, 2011, with 500 doctors. During the trial, which lasted nine months, HealthLink averaged one Social Security eligibility determination per doctor per month without incident.
The SSA’s Health IT program is an effort to bring greater speed and power to the agency’s disability eligibility determination process by harnessing the potential of electronic medical records. The records are sent through the Nationwide Health Information Network.
Each year, the SSA receives over 3 million disability claims. To determine eligibility, it requests over 15 million medical records from about one half million health care providers. Currently, the vast majority of those records are transmitted by mail or fax. Electronic records provide huge savings not just in time, but also in the labor and supplies associated with the tasks of printing, copying and mailing records.
Just as with paper medical records, the release of electronic medical records requires patient authorization. HealthLink developers said that they have implemented comprehensive security protocols regarding worker access, physical security, and data transmission. The computer hardware that runs HealthLink is located in HIPAA-certified facilities on campus at Wright State.
HealthLink developers say that the system generates revenue and is commercially viable. They have seen interest in creating an independent commercial entity based on the system. HealthLink is available to doctors who use the Internet-based medical records system known as athenaClinicals, and Wright State is seeking additional users of the system to expand HealthLink’s network. The research institute also plans to support competing records system EpicCare.
The creators of Health Link say they hope to be a leader in the nascent industry of electronic medical records.
The Social Security Administration is calling on private insurers that pay workers’ compensation as well as state and local agencies to report payments to the agency to help cut down on fraud and overpayments.
In a recent speech to the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, Carolyn Colvin, deputy administrator for the SSA, explained that funding shortages are forcing tough decisions to be made. The administration is trying to streamline income reporting to cut back on how long it takes to catch overpayments for Social Security Disability Insurance and the Supplemental Security Income programs.
When the Social Security Administration waits for beneficiaries to report changes in their income, it can take too long and invites problems, Colvin said.
“By requiring plan administrators to provide payment information to us promptly, this proposal would improve the integrity of the [workers’ compensation] and [public disability benefit] reporting process, improve the accuracy of SSDI benefits and SSI payments, and lessen our reliance on the beneficiary to report this information,” she said.
The agency considers the goal of curbing improper payments to be key in the Social Security Administration’s strategic plan to “Preserve the Public’s Trust in Our Programs,” she told the subcommittee.
Funding issues are forcing the administration to do fewer continuing disability reviews and significantly fewer SSI redeterminations. The agency does SSI redeterminations on the nonmedical factors that make a beneficiary eligible for SSI. Since the agency has cut back on the number of reviews and redeterminations, it has needed to rely more on the strategic use of the processes and staff, she told the lawmakers.
By asking private insurers and state and local agencies to report income to the SSA, the reporting can trigger some reviews and increase the agency’s efficiency. In the past two years, the agency’s work to continue disability reviews has paid off. In about a third of the work, CDRs found that a disability had ceased and suspended benefits.
SSI redeterminations are up since 2007 after falling the five years before that. The numbers are up because funding increased for program integrity, she said. The increased funding has enabled the agency to improve SSI overpayment accuracy rates by almost four percent in three years.
Colvin asked members of the subcommittee to push for provisions in the President’s budget that would require employers to report wages quarterly. The more frequent the reporting, the easier it is for the agency to accurately distribute benefits, she said.
Zephyrhills, Fla. – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has started a new safety rating system for 2011 model year vehicles. The ratings involve tougher crash tests and crash warning systems, which provide consumers with one overall safety score. Passenger cars, sport utility vehicles, vans and pickups are all tested.
The NHTSA admitted that most vehicles were getting a four or five star rating, so these new, stricter standards will show the differences more easily to the consumer. Four collision tests – frontal, side-impact, rollover and the new side pole collision – will replicate what happens to most vehicles during an accident. Safercar.gov will post the ratings on their website as the sticker that will show the safety rating is still being devised.
With the new rating, older vehicles from 1990 to 2010 should not be compared to the new safety numbers. Only newer vehicles have these crash avoidance technologies and safety standards, so the NHTSA decided to focus on them to help individuals make smart buying decisions.
“Now this great program has gotten even better by making it easier to compare the safety performance of vehicles not only in terms of crash survivability, but in terms of avoiding crashes in the first place,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.
Every year, more than five million driving accidents occur and 32,788 people die as a result. Close to three million people suffer moderate to severe injuries. Despite the efforts of the NHTSA and automakers, crashes still happen. Most are due to poor driver performance of the at-fault driver. Some of the injuries are not detectable right after the accident, but occur weeks or months later. Individuals should seek medical attention and legal counsel immediately to maintain their health and uphold their rights.
The most common injuries include head trauma, spinal cord injuries, bone fractures, burns and internal organ injuries. A skilled auto accident attorney will fight for their client’s rights to get compensation for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
“You do not want to go for a quick settlement with your insurance company, as they will oftentimes want to force you into accepting an inadequate amount,” said Zephyrhills auto accident attorney Robert Alston. “We want to make sure all your health needs are met and push for full and fair financial compensation.”
The Disability Law Firm is well versed in negotiating with insurance companies and getting clients access to quality medical care. Robert Alston has more than 10 years of proven auto accident case results and prior to law school was a licensed insurance agent.