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December 2009

Pushing the limit.  “In one industrial accident alone, Total Petrochemical's sprawling oil refinery in southeast Texas sprayed tons of sulfuric acid and carbon monoxide into the sky”.

“The French company's 62-year-old facility also has released toxic substances such as cancer-causing benzene, regularly surpassed allowable pollution limits and failed to report dozens of emissions – or even fully identify what or how much was released.”

“Such incidents helped make Total the most heavily fined polluter in Texas in fiscal 2009, according to a year-end report summarizing how companies were punished in the state that produces the most industrial pollution.”  Excerpted from: French refiner Total tops Texas' list of fines for pollution by John McFarland, The Associated Press, Dallas Morning News 12-9-09


It’s just a flesh wound… “Workplace injury and illness data that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration collects from employers is inadequate, according to a Tuesday report by the Government Accountability Office.”

“The GAO said some employers avoid reporting workplace injuries and illnesses to save money on workers compensation costs and out of fear of jeopardizing rewards based on having low injury and illness rates.”

“…the report found that workers did not report job-related injuries because they feared being fired or did not want to let their co-workers down and risk losing rewards for maintaining safety.” “The report is available at www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-10.”  Excerpted from: OSHA workplace, illness data inadequate: GAO report by Jeff Casale,  Business Insurance 11-17-09


November

Ah, to live in Phoenix. Or Columbus, Ohio…“Workers in all those cities — along with others — pay a lot less than Houstonians for their health care, according to the human resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates.”

“Experts cite several reasons that individuals in Houston pay hundreds of dollars more each year for premiums and out-of-pocket costs. The factors include the unpopularity of managed care, a higher-than-average population without health insurance, and expensive health care providers.”

“According to Hewitt, employees in the Houston area will pay an average of $4,791 next year for individual health insurance premiums as well as co-pays and deductibles.”

“That's 19 percent more than the U.S. average of $4,023…”

“Houston employees and employers have paid more than the national average for health care premiums and out-of-pocket expenses every year since 2002, according to Hewitt.”  Excerpted from: Column by L.M. SIXEL - Health care is pricier here, Houston Chronicle 10-30-09


Flipping & flopping. “The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, facing hundreds of lawsuits stemming from hurricanes Ike, Dolly and Rita, wants to limit how much it pays if it loses in court.”

“TWIA argues it's an instrument of a government agency, and as such is entitled to sovereign immunity…”

“In a 2008 e-mail to a Houston Chronicle reporter after Hurricane Ike, TWIA's general manager wrote it was not subject to open records rules: “TWIA is a private company that was set up by legislation. It is a nonprofit company.”  Excerpted from: Windstorm insurer seeks immunity in lawsuits By PURVA PATEL, Houston Chronicle 11-11-09


October 2009

⇒Second verse. Same as the first?  “Maurice R. Greenberg, who built the American International Group into an insurance behemoth with an impenetrable maze of on- and offshore companies, is at it again.”

“Even as he has been lambasting the government for its handling of A.I.G… Mr. Greenberg has been quietly building up a family of insurance companies that could compete with A.I.G. To fill the ranks of his venture…he has been hiring some people he once employed.”

“Mr. Greenberg’s success may be at the expense of taxpayers. People who work in the industry say that if he is already luring A.I.G.’s people, he may soon be siphoning off its business and, therefore, its [AIG] means to repay its debt to the government.”

“A.I.G., meanwhile, is struggling to regain its footing. The recipient of the biggest taxpayer bailout in history, it has been ordered by the government to restructure, unwind its complex derivatives and pay back the taxpayers.”  Excerpted from: Ex-A.I.G. Chief Is Back, Luring Talent From Rescued Firm, By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH, New York Times 10-27-09


Riding roughshod. “…what we can know is that the public institutions that are supposed to protect Texans from the abuses of large corporations aren’t doing a very good job of it. Despite the supposed oversight of the state’s highest court and the responsible regulatory agency…giant companies are now allowed to operate in parts of Texas the same way they have operated in some Third World countries: exploiting the resources and moving on, without looking back.”  Excerpted from: Below the Surface  by Mimi Swartz, Texas Monthly, November 2009


The Fox is Guarding the Hen House. "Seven years ago…the Texas Medical Board promised to crack down on bad doctors.

It hasn't turned out that way.

After its last meeting…the board announced decisions on four sex-related cases. Two involved doctors whom judges had already sentenced for crimes against children. Two involved psychiatrists found to have had affairs with adult patients…

The child abusers were allowed to go on practicing medicine, though not with kids. The other two are working without restrictions.

…Others who kept their licenses…include two doctors convicted of lucrative federal crimes that put patients in harm's way; a neurosurgeon who operated on the wrong body part four times; a cardiologist found to have performed dozens of invasive procedures with little or no cause; and at least seven physicians linked to a death."   Excerpted from: Physician misconduct often tolerated by state medical board, analysis finds, by Brooks Egerton, Dallas Morning News 10-12-09


Texas Ranks Dead Last  “Health care in Texas ranks among the worst in the nation, dragged down by large numbers of uninsured and by the nation's most porous safety net, according to a scorecard and analysis released Thursday by the health care-oriented Commonwealth Fund.”

“Texas ranked 46th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia…Texas was ranked last in access to health care, and in equity – a measure of how minorities and low-income patients fared in the state's medical system. Texas has some of the nation's strictest eligibility requirements for Medicaid insurance.”  Excerpted from: Health care story ranks Texas 46th by JIM LANDERS, The Dallas Morning News, 10-8-09


⇒Deplorable Methodology  “In 1998, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce… created what it calls its “Institute for Legal Reform” (ILR) to pursue the Chamber’s agenda of protecting corporations from liability. In pursuit of this agenda, the Chamber publishes a Survey of State Liability, an annual “ranking” of states that criticizes certain state business climates based on nothing more than some corporate lawyers’ views of a state’s legal system.”

“…Theodore Eisenberg, Professor of Law and Statistical Sciences at Cornell University, concludes, “The Chamber’s willingness to vilify states and counties to promote both itself and legislation may be the product of the same mentality that has led to shocking business failures.” 
Excerpted from: New Empirical Analysis – U.S. Chamber for Commerce Liability Survey: INACCURATE, UNFAIR AND BAD FOR BUSINESS, Center for Justice & Democracy, 9-29-09


September 2009

⇒FLASHBACK 1995. “The Clinton plan would have imposed sweeping changes… with consequences far greater than Congress could possibly consider...It represented a regulation-minded, top-down, centralized approach at a time when the world was moving toward decentralization and flexibility—and when the supposed health crisis was solving itself anyway. Or so goes the conventional wisdom… The more people learned about this plan, the less they liked it, and it finally died a natural and well-deserved death.”

“But suppose that what everyone knows is wrong.”  Excerpted from: A Triumph of Misinformation, by James Fallows, The Atlantic, January 1995


⇒Good hands? “The outcome of a battle between the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and state regulators could set a precedent for how future roof claims are handled after a hurricane…”

“The lifted shingle issue is not limited to TWIA,” said Alex Winslow, head of Texas Watch, …Insurance Commissioner Mike Geeslin “can either make sure these claims get paid or he can allow TWIA and the other insurance companies to keep denying them.”

“Policyholders say Hurricane Ike winds blew their shingles back, breaking the seals that keep them adhered to each other and that prevent water from leaking through.

But TWIA…doesn't consider loose shingles damaged. It also argues…policyholders must prove their shingles were sealed before Ike.”

“…the ultimate decision lies in Insurance Commissioner Geeslin's hands.”   Windstorm insurers, state regulators spar over shingles, By Purva Patel, Houston Chronicle, Sept. 5, 2009


⇒Malpractice-related hooey. “So while Texas patients lost significant legal rights and many unsafe health care providers are now unaccountable, rural communities that were exploited during the “tort reform” campaign have seen no improvement in access to physicians.”  Excerpted from: Medical Malpractice Myths Debunked TXs, California and Some Michigan Thrown In, www.poptort.com 9-15-09


⇒Barely merits discussion. “After reviewing thousands of patient records, medical researchers have estimated that only 2 to 3 percent of cases of medical negligence lead to a malpractice claim. For every notorious error — the teenager who died in North Carolina after being given the wrong blood type, the 39-year-old Massachusetts mother killed by a chemotherapy overdose, the newborn twins (children of the actor Dennis Quaid) given too much blood thinner — there are dozens more. You never hear about these other cases.”

“Medical errors happen more frequently here than in other rich countries, as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently found. Only a tiny share of victims receive compensation.”  Excerpted from: Medical Malpractice System Breeds More Waste by DAVID LEONHARDT, New York Times 9-23-09


August 2009

⇒Cash - don’t leave home without it. “More and more consumers are getting to the cash register to find that their credit cards have been canceled without their knowledge. Consumers say that it is often embarrassing to have a card declined in front of friends and other customers, and that it is frustrating when customer service is able to confirm only that the card was canceled, but not why.”  Excerpted from: Cardholders Get Rude Surprise at the Register by Mary Pilon, Wall Street Journal 8-12-09


⇒McDreamy vs. Marcus Welby: Is the 'Cool' Factor Killing Healthcare? "All the sexy shows on TV are about ER work or surgeons,"…Whatever it may be. There is no Marcus Welby on TV — 'cause it's just not cool."

“Television aside, medical specialists cite an array of reasons why more medical students aspire to be Grey's Anatomy's McDreamy neurosurgeon…than the wise family practitioner [in Marcus Welby, MD]…”

“Longer days, lower pay, less prestige and more administrative headaches have turned doctors away in droves from family medicine, presumed to be the frontline for wellness and preventive-care programs…”

“The number of U.S. medical school students going into primary care has dropped 51.8% since 1997, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).”  Excerpted from: Doctor shortage looms as primary care loses its pull By Janice Lloyd, USA TODAY 8-20-09


⇒Unacceptable.  “And what about us—the patients? How does a nation that might close down a business for a single illness from a suspicious hamburger tolerate the carnage inflicted by our hospitals? And not just those 100,000 deaths. In April, a Wall Street Journal story suggested that blood clots following surgery or illness, the leading cause of preventable hospital deaths in the U.S., may kill nearly 200,000 patients per year. How did Americans learn to accept hundreds of thousands of deaths from minor medical mistakes as an inevitability?”   Excerpted: How American Health Care Killed My Father, The Atlantic by David Goldhill, September 2009


⇒Raw numbers. “Hispanic worker deaths increased from 533 in 1992 to 937 in 2007 — a 76% jump. In the same period, total fatalities in all jobs nationwide… The 2007 tally, the latest available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, followed a record 990 Hispanic deaths in 2006.”

“Jose Omar Puerto, 19, from Honduras, was repairing a roof on an Austin apartment building in 2007 when his aluminum ladder became entangled in electrical wires. He was electrocuted and killed, his sister, Marta Puerto, said.”

“His company paid for the funeral and the body's return to Honduras, she said. The family received no further compensation.”  Excerpted from: Hispanic worker deaths up 76% since 1992 by Rick Jervis, USA TODAY, July 20, 2009


JULY 2009

⇒Dentophobia on steroids. “An American-Statesman review of disciplinary records found that despite years of critical audits and complaints of lax oversight, the dental board… is less likely to take disciplinary action, slower to act and far less likely to impose the most severe sanction, loss of a license, than the state medical board.”

“The dental board…routinely suspends dentists' licenses, then probates those suspensions in full…Since January 2007, probated suspensions have been meted out to dentists who have a license revoked in another state or who plead guilty to crimes such as Medicaid fraud or assault.”

“…the dental board requires members of the public to file an open records request to see a dentist's disciplinary record.”  Excerpted from: Oversight of dentists lacks strength by Mary Ann Roser, Austin American Statesman, July 20, 2009


⇒The Gag Reflex.  "Until recently, patients whose doctors kept them waiting for hours without explanation, brushed off their questions or seemed downright incompetent had little recourse…In the past five years more than 40 Web sites…have begun reviewing physicians…”

“As a defensive measure, some physicians are requiring patients to sign broad agreements that prohibit online postings or commentary in any media outlet "without prior written consent."
"We get threatened with lawsuits on a pretty much weekly basis," he said [John Swapceinski, a founder of RateMDs.com]”

“Some doctors advocate an aggressive response…Medical Justice, a company that for a fee starting at $495 provides sample privacy agreements and monitors online comments for its 2,000 members.”  Excerpted from: Doctor's Orders, Want Treatment? Just Sign This No-Complaint Contract By Sandra G. Boodman, Washington Post, 7-21-09


⇒What goes up – must come down. NOT! "Here we go again. As we enter another hurricane season, State Farm announced it plans to raise its homeowners rates by as much as 8.5 percent. The insurer raised rates by 2.8 percent last year. Not to be outdone, Allstate has said it will raise rates by an average of 5.5 percent statewide, with bigger hikes in coastal areas.”

“This is the Ike backlash. Homeowners who dared to use the policies they paid for to settle hurricane damage last year are now taking it in the premiums.”

“The poor-mouthing by insurers grows as tiresome as the perennial rate hikes…if an insurance company can't adequately protect itself from risk, do you really want to buy a policy from them?”  Excerpted from: Loren Steffy - Insurance rate hike? Must be hurricane season, Houston Chronicle, 7-16-09


⇒A damning portrait. “Congressional committees heard a lot this month about the devious schemes used by health insurance companies to drop or shortchange sick patients.’

“A House oversight subcommittee took a close look at…“rescission,” in which insurance companies cancel coverage for some sick policyholders rather than pay an expensive claim.…When executives for the three companies were asked if they would…limit rescissions to cases where the policyholder deliberately lied on an application, all said they would not.”

“…the Senate Commerce Committee was getting an earful from a former head of corporate communications for Cigna…He charged that the industry deliberately confuses its customers…“dump the sick” through rescissions and by purging small businesses whose employees’ claims exceed what underwriters expected.”  Editorial: Insurance Company Schemes, The New York Times, June 29, 2009


⇒Target practice.  “[Dr. Gary D. Kao] whom regulators accuse of mishandling scores of radioactive seed implants at the Philadelphia veterans’ hospital told a Congressional panel…he “could have done better” with some implants, his patients over all received effective treatment for their prostate cancer.’

“…investigators for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and V.A. officials had identified Dr. Kao as the doctor who did all but a handful of the …92 substandard seed implants out of 116 cases...”

“An N.R.C. consultant…concluded that “erratic seed placement caused a number of cases to have elevated doses to the rectum, bladder or perineum.”…Dr. Kao confirmed that he had on occasion implanted seeds in the bladder.”

“Did you notify the patient?” Mr. Specter [Senator Arlen Specter] asked.”

“No, sir,” Dr. Kao replied.”   Excerpted from: Oncologist Defends His Work at a V.A. Hospital By WALT BOGDANICH, New York Times 6-30-09


JUNE 2009

⇒ $12 an hour for every hour you survive. "A construction worker dies in Texas every 2 1/2 days. No other state in the country has as many construction-related deaths: 142 fatalities were reported in 2007…according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent statistics. The causes are far from mysterious: lax enforcement of labor and safety regulations, too many overtime hours without rest breaks and a lack of safety training and equipment.

"Despite its construction boom, Texas has the second lowest number of OSHA inspectors in the nation… According to a 2008 report by the AFL-CIO, Death on the Job, it would take the 77 OSHA inspectors in Texas 144 years to visit every workplace in the state at least once."   Excerpted from: Dying to Build - Why Texas is the deadliest state for construction workers by Melissa del Bosque, Texas Observer June 12-2009


⇒Hank’s larcenous anger issues. “Former AIG CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg admitted…he was angry about losing his job in 2005, but defended taking over a retirement bonus fund that AIG is trying to recover in federal court.”

"Yes, I was angry," said Greenberg, responding to a question from AIG's lawyer Theodore Wells. Wells argued…that Greenberg...raided an AIG retirement program [Starr] holding $4.3 billion in stock because he was angry about losing his job…”

“The lawsuit against Greenberg and Starr involves a fund created in 1970…Its value grew to $4.3 billion…The fund was described…by Greenberg before 2005 as a retirement bonus fund for select…employees…a "kind of golden handcuffs" given to members of "the inner club.”
“…AIG has received $182 billion in federal aid…AIG said if it can reclaim the $4.3 billion the money would help it pay back the government.” 
Excerpted from: AIG ex-CEO says he was 'angry' about losing job in '05 by MADLEN READ, Associated Press 6-17-09


⇒The cost of getting paid.  “Insurance administration costs can take a big bite out of a practice’s revenue. A recent Weill Cornell Medical College study found that a third of the money received by primary care physicians pays for interactions between a doctor’s practice and patients’ health plans.”  Excerpted from: If All Doctors Had More Time to Listen By JULIE WEED, New York Times 6-7-09


⇒Advice to the insured: Don’t get sick.  “The study [by Harvard University, published in the August issue of the American Journal of Medicine] found that medical bills, plus related problems such as lost wages for the ill and their caregivers, contributed to 62% of all bankruptcies filed in 2007.”

“Medical insurance isn't much help, either. About 78% of bankruptcy filers burdened by healthcare expenses were insured…”

"Health insurance is not a guarantee that illness won't bankrupt you," said Steffie Woolhandler, one of the authors…

…"So you can be insured and still end up with big bills.…even if you have good insurance through your employer, you can lose it if you get sick and can't work."

“Most people who filed medical-related bankruptcies "were solidly middle class before financial disaster hit," the study says. Two-thirds were homeowners, and most had gone to college.”  Excerpted from: Medical bills play a role in 62% of bankruptcies, study says by Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times 6-4-2009


MAY  2009

⇒Medicine’s Culture War. “I went to dinner with six McAllen doctors…Some were dubious when I told them that McAllen was the country’s most expensive place for health care...costs have grown faster than any other market…ultimately soaring by more than ten thousand dollars per person.”

“Maybe the service is better here,” the cardiologist suggested….”

“Others were skeptical. “I don’t think that explains the costs he’s talking about,” the general surgeon said.”

“It’s malpractice,” a family physician said.”

“McAllen is legal hell,” the cardiologist agreed…That explanation puzzled me…Texas passed a tough malpractice law…Didn’t lawsuits go down?”

“Practically to zero,” the cardiologist admitted.”

“Come on,” the general surgeon finally said. “We all know these arguments are bullshit. There is overutilization here, pure and simple.” Doctors, he said, were racking up charges with extra tests, services, and procedures…“the way to practice medicine has changed completely. Before, it was about how to do a good job. Now it is about ‘How much will you benefit?”   Excerpted from: The Cost Conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care by Atul Gawande The New Yorker, June 1, 2009


⇒Pick your adjective: PREVENTABLE or NEEDLESS or AVOIDABLE.  “Despite a decade of promises, little has been done to fix the problem of preventable medical errors that kill nearly 98,000 people in the United States each year…”

“Consumers Union… said lawmakers largely have failed to enact patient safety reforms recommended by a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine or IOM that found that medical errors cost the United States $17 billion to $29 billion a year.”

“…the group now projects that preventable medical errors now account for more than 100,000 deaths each year…”    Excerpted from: U.S. group sees little progress on medical errors, Reuters 5-19-09


⇒The Fairness of Options. “Seems to me that if arbitration is indeed fair to everyone, it shouldn't have to be crammed down consumers' throats. Arbitration should be offered as a cost-effective and relatively speedy alternative to litigation. But it should be just one option available, just as filing a lawsuit should be an option.”  Excerpted from: Column - Sue the company? Most contracts force consumers to forfeit that right, David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times, 5-3-09


⇒A Never-Ending Scandal, er, Story "A senior member [Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-MD] of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wants his panel to investigate whether insurance giant AIG Inc. and other providers have unnecessarily denied and delayed costly medical treatment for civilian contractors injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The letter cited media reports last week disclosing that insurance companies routinely challenged serious injury claims of civilian workers returning from the war zones. Private contractors have been forced to battle for basic medical needs…

Last year, the government reform committee determined that AIG had collected $1.3 billion in premiums on the insurance between 2002 and 2007, while it had paid out about $800 million -- leaving the company with a nearly 40% profit. The Pentagon has recently begun an inquiry into whether such premiums can be lowered."  Excerpted from: AIG faces inquiry over medical care for U.S. contractors, Los Angeles Times By T. Christian Miller 4-22-09


⇒Turning the tables: Begging for comfort. “Health insurance companies…offered to reduce rates for millions of women and accept close federal regulation…”

“The industry is trying to head off creation of a government health plan that would compete with them to enroll middle-class workers and their families.”

"We are not asking people to trust us, we are asking people to trust government," Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, told a Senate panel…”

“Instead of a government plan as a check on their industry, insurers are offering to accept a series of consumer protections they contend would add up to a fairer marketplace and cut into the…50 million uninsured.”

"We are comfortable with that," Ignagni told the Senate Finance Committee…”

“Insurers have already offered to stop denying coverage to sick people and…the practice of charging higher premiums to those with a history of health problems. In exchange, the industry wants Congress to require all Americans to carry health insurance…”  Excerpted from: Health insurers ask gov't to police their industry, By Ricardo Alonso Zaldivar, Erica Werner contributed to this report, The Associated Press, 5-5-09


APRIL 2009

⇒This Just In: Damage Caps Have NOT Brought Down Healthcare Costs for Consumers. Film at 11.  “Their [a team at the University of Alabama] survey of studies related to malpractice insurance, defensive medicine and consumer health insurance premiums looked at 27 states with limits on non-economic damages…”

“Their conclusion – ‘Tort reforms have not led to health care cost savings for consumers’…”
"Tort reform is not a panacea for health care costs," said Morrisey” [Michael Morrisey, professor of health economics/health insurance and director of Lister Hill Center for Health Policy]

“But it's important to keep in mind who gains and who loses…As Morrisey and his colleagues put it: "The results of this study suggest that there are no insurance premium savings that accrue to consumers. Are there other benefits to consumers? If these cannot be identified, it is difficult to see a justification for the loss of legal rights."  Excerpted from: Malpractice damage caps not a cure for high health care costs by Jim Landers (Business Columnist), Dallas Morning News, April 21, 2009


⇒You Are What You Eat? Ewwwww. “After decades of steady progress, the safety of the nation’s food supply has not improved over the past three years… The report, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demonstrates that the nation’s food safety system, created when most foods were grown, prepared and consumed locally, needs a thorough overhaul to regulate an increasingly global food industry, top government health officials said Thursday.”

“Roughly 76 million people in the United States suffer foodborne illnesses each year, 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die, according to C.D.C. estimates. Children younger than 4 are sickened by food more than those in any other age group….”  Excerpted from: U.S. Food Safety No Longer Improving By GARDINER HARRIS, NY Times 4-9-09


⇒ Much ado about nothing. “A special government program to improve worker safety in hazardous industries rarely fulfilled its promise, a Labor Department audit concluded… over the past six years, dozens of deaths occurred at firms that should have been subjected to much tighter federal safety enforcement.”

“The report was the first detailed appraisal of a highly touted Bush administration initiative that called for [OSHA] to devote attention and resources to improving safety at companies with a troubled history of job-related fatalities. The study found that officials failed to gather needed data, conducted uneven inspections and enforcement, and sometimes failed to discern repeat fatalities because records misspelled the companies' names or failed to notice when two subsidiaries with the same owner were involved.” Excerpted from: Initiative On Worker Safety Gets Poor Marks, Washington Post by R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post April 2, 2009


⇒ I was the CEO for a mere 40 years, but it's not my fault. “The man who built failed insurer American International Group Inc...is bracing for tough questioning on Capitol Hill.”

“Maurice "Hank" Greenberg is appearing before the House Oversight Committee…”

“Greenberg is expected to tell the panel he bears no responsibility for AIG's downfall, despite his having served as chief executive for nearly four decades, until March 2005.”  Excerpted from: Former AIG CEO criticizes successors, bailout by Daniel Wagner, Associated Press 4-2-09


MARCH 2009

⇒ Yours is frivolous – mine is good business.  “As the economy melts down, even Texas’ tort warriors and their kin are turning to civil courts to recover losses from ruined financial firms. Dallas energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens—a $1 million donor to Texans for Lawsuit Reform—filed a lawsuit last October to recoup $60 million from bankrupt Lehman Brothers.

"In January, a family foundation affiliated with a Texas tort-reform giant filed a $1.8 million claim against hammered Dallas hedge fund Highland Capital Management LP, depicting the foundation as a victim of deceit. Amarillo’s Mary E. Bivins Foundation is named for the great-grandmother of former Republican state Sen. Teel Bivins… In 1995, then-Sen. Bivins authored or co-authored each of the four major tort-restriction bills that then-Gov. George W. Bush signed into law.”  Excerpted from: Tort Warriors Resort to Litigation by Andrew Wheat, The Texas Observer 3-20-09 (Scroll down towards the bottom)


⇒ Playing in piles of vermiculite. "A medical expert testifying Tuesday in the W.R. Grace trial described his disbelief when, arriving in Libby [Montana] 10 years ago, he found that people who had never worked at Grace’s vermiculite mine were dying from asbestos-related disease.”

“To see an individual who had died of asbestos-related disease who was not a worker was unheard of,” said Dr. Aubrey Miller, a physician and investigator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “

“Grace had information about the asbestos, about the nature of the asbestos to become airborne, they had information about health effects on their workers and they had information about animal studies where the animals were being exposed to the same materials as the workers,” Miller said.”   Excerpted from: Expert calls extent of Libby illnesses ‘unheard of’, Associated Press 3-10-09


⇒ Surly physician? Misdiagnosis? Keep it to yourself.  “Some doctors have started fighting back against ugly Internet reviews by asking patients to abide by what are effectively gag orders that bar them from posting negative comments online.”

“Medical Justice…For a fee, it provides doctors with a standardized waiver agreement. Patients who sign agree not to post online comments about the doctor, "his expertise and/or treatment."
Doctors are notified when a negative rating appears on a Web site… physicians can use the signed waivers to get the sites to remove offending opinion.” 
Excerpted from: Docs seek gag orders to stop patients' reviews By LINDSEY TANNER, Associated Press 3-3-09.


⇒ Oh no you didn’t! “The former chief executive officer [Maurice "Hank" Greenberg] of American International Group Inc. on Monday sued the company he led for 38 years, saying AIG misled investors about its exposure to subprime mortgages.”

“…claimed in papers filed in federal court in Manhattan Monday that the company… has ruined his fortune by lying about its financial health.”

“…a company spokeswoman, said: "We believe the suit is without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously."

“Greenberg was forced out of AIG amidst a controversy in spring 2005 when the company restated its financial statements for the previous five years, acknowledging accounting improprieties, including 'improper or inappropriate transactions.'"    Excerpted from: Former AIG CEO sues the company in NY, saying AIG took his fortune through deceit, Associated Press 3-3-09


 FEBRUARY 2009

⇒Tragically Ironic.  February 24, 2004 “The chairman (Maurice R. Greenberg) of American International Group…called lawyers opposed to tort reform "terrorists"…

“Greenberg used graphic language as he railed against an American tort system…. He accused plaintiff's lawyers of venue shopping… "You know you're going to get raped...when you appear there," Greenberg said.”

"Our legal tort system is out of control," he said, estimating class-action lawsuits shave 2 percent off the U.S. gross domestic product every year. "It's a blight on the country." 1

February 19, 2009 “Former American International Group Inc. chairman Maurice R. Greenberg criticized the Obama administration’s steps to restrict executive compensation for firms that receive federal aid….”

“What kind of people are you going to get for $500,000? Anyone with real talent will just go elsewhere,” Mr. Greenberg told an audience in New York Thursday…“The best managers will move to private companies that are not receiving government funds, and therefore do not face pay caps,” he said.”

“Mr. Greenberg—who resigned as chairman and CEO of AIG in 2005 amid investigations of its accounting practices...” 2

February 23, 2009 “The American International Group, the battered insurance giant that is now effectively majority-owned by the federal government, is in talks to receive more government aid as it prepares to record another giant loss.” 3      1 Excerpted from: AIG Chief Calls Some Lawyers 'Terrorists' By Tim McLaughlin, Reuters 2-24-09, 2 Excerpted from: Greenberg slams pay cap plan, AIG bailout By Colleen McCarthy, Business Insurance 2-19-09, 3 Excerpted from: A.I.G. to Seek More Government Aid, The New York Times 2-23-09


⇒Finger-pointing syndrome.  "Nearly 80% of companies describe their firms as not ready for a government or regulatory investigation, according to a new Deloitte Financial Advisory Services online survey of 1,100 executives.”

“Only 20.8% of executives say their companies are "very ready" for a government investigation despite the fact that 26.5% had been subject to a government probe during the past two years.”

“…executives disagree on the chain of responsibility for such investigations. The executives placed responsibility on several entities, with 20.9% naming internal audit committees, 18.6% fingering general counsel and 5.6% citing the board of directors or audit committee.”  Excerpted from: Survey: 80% of companies are not ready for government or regulatory investigations by Sheri Qualters, National Law Journal Feb. 18, 2009. Access to this article requires free registration ot the NLJ website.


⇒Oh...I get it! All you do is tweak the math to increase your net worth.  “Allstate, the big insurer, last week declared that despite unprecedented trouble in the markets, it remains financially strong.”

“But tucked deep inside a company report is evidence that Allstate changed its bookkeeping last year in ways that improve its financial appearance.” 

“One accounting change added $347 million. Another delivered a year-end boost of $365 million.”  Excerpted from:   Insurers' Finances Clouded by Bookkeeping Changes By David S. Hilzenrath, Washington Post, February 6, 2009 


⇒Alarming! Or is it just me? “We need to set a new goal for law -- to define an open area of free choice. This requires judges and legislatures to affirmatively assert social norms of what's reasonable and what's not.”  Excerpted from:  How Modern Law Makes Us Powerless,  Op-ed by Philip K. Howard, Wall Street Journal, Jan 26, 2009


JANUARY 2009

⇒Directions: Apply Pressure and Wait. “Nine dissident scientists at the Food and Drug Administration who say they were forced to approve high-risk medical devices sent a letter to President Obama on Monday stating that agency officials might have made them the targets of a criminal investigation into their complaints.”

“It has been brought to our attention that F.D.A. management may have just recently ordered the F.D.A. Office of Criminal Investigations (O.C.I.) to investigate us rather than the managers who have engaged in wrongdoing!” states the letter…”

“The letter is the latest escalation in a highly unusual internal battle… The nine scientists have banded together and charged that agency officials have acted illegally and that patients are routinely put at risk from high-risk medical devices that are approved for sale even though manufacturers have never proved that the products are either safe or effective.”  Excerpted from: Dissidents at F.D.A. Complain of Inquiry, By Gardiner Harris New York Times 1-28-09


⇒Polluters, Go Sit in the Corner.  “Five years after a state auditor determined that the state's main environmental regulatory and permitting office did little to penalize polluters, critics say shortcomings remain in making violators pay.”

“The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality still caps penalties on polluters at $10,000 for each violation per day, regardless of its severity. And it still hasn't decided whether a history of violations should warrant harsher penalties.”

“By its own reckoning, the commission conceives of the penalties it levies against polluters as a kind of schoolmarmish scold.”  Excerpted from: Do businesses pay for pollution? By Asher Price, Austin American Statesman, January 18, 2009


⇒Climate change.  “With a less-friendly political climate and a downright hostile economic climate, U.S. property/casualty insurers are anticipating renewed legislative and regulatory battles in the states in 2009.”

“It is early for determining which states will see the most significant actions on these issues, but the overall trend is one of "defense, defense, defense," said Joe Thesing, state affairs director for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. “  Excerpted from: Insurers Anticipate a Year of 'Defense' in 2009 by Sean Carr, BestWeek, 1-12-2009 


⇒Need care? Just Google it – I did.  “A healthcare company hired to manage a program for elderly Texans as part of a broad privatization plan was fined more than $1 million by the state in the past year over mounting complaints that included delayed or denied medical care.

Evercare of Texas… has drawn the ire of some powerful Austin lawmakers over its management of preventative and long-term care for the state’s most vulnerable, The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday in the first of a four-part investigative series.

Steven McGee…[a] truck driver disabled by multiple sclerosis, tried to enroll after receiving a packet from Evercare in advance of a care program that was to launch Feb. 1 last year. He said the first three people he talked to didn’t know what he was talking about…

After McGee convinced her [a fourth Evercare representative] that he had a company pamphlet in hand…. "She came back and said, 'I understand what you’re talking about now because…I Googled it.’’[McGee said]”  Excerpted from: Company caring for elderly under fire from state, Associated Press 1-5-09