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2012

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DECEMBER 2012

Look both ways before crossing the street.  “Pedestrians who text are four times less likely to look before crossing the street, cross at designated areas or obey traffic lights, according to a new study that highlights the hazards of mobile technology.”

“Previous studies have found that pedestrians are less cautious and more likely to engage in “risky crossing behavior” when wearing headphones or talking on cellphones. And a 2010 study found pedestrians using cellphones took longer to cross the street.”

Excerpted from: Texting Pedestrians Risk Injuries, ABC News, by Dr. Sam Li 12-13-12.


A well-known problem.  “Data compiled by the consumer agency from death certificates and hospital emergency room visits from 2003 through May 2012 shows that 150 mostly older adults died after they became trapped in bed rails. Over nearly the same time period, 36,000 mostly older adults — about 4,000 a year — were treated in emergency rooms with bed rail injuries…”

“Experts who have studied the deaths say they are avoidable.”

“This is an entirely preventable problem,” said Dr. Steven Miles, a professor at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota, who first alerted federal regulators to deaths involving bed rails in 1995.”

“Since those first warnings in 1995, about 550 bed rail-related deaths have occurred, a review by The New York Times of F.D.A. data, lawsuits, state nursing home inspection reports and interviews, found. Last year alone, the F.D.A. data shows, 27 people died.”

Excerpted from: After Dozens of Deaths, Inquiry Into Bed Rails, By Ron Nixon, New York Times 11-25-12.


NOVEMBER 2012

Tragic.  “Texas railroad crossings are the second-deadliest in the country. Accidents at public and private rail crossings killed 86 people in Texas from 2009 to August 2012, according to federal railroad data. Only California had more deaths — 111 — during the same period.”

Excerpted from: Tests Show Train Warnings Worked at Texas Crash Site, The New York Times 11-18-2012.


Hello Mr. Ratehike, are you new to town?  “State Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman has decided not to oppose an average 15 percent rate hike that Farmers Insurance imposed on its homeowners customers this fall, the second time this year that the company has increased premiums in Texas.”

“Her track record is clear. She hasn’t met a rate increase she didn’t like, and Texas policyholders are the ones paying the price,” he said, citing a string of premium hikes by major insurers that drew no objections from Kitzman.”

“Referring to the Farmers increase, Winslow said, “There is absolutely no justification for an increase of that size in such a short period of time.”

“Farmers customers have already seen one premium boost this year, a nearly 10 percent hike that was imposed in March.”

Excerpted from: Texas won’t fight Farmers Insurance as it raises homeowner rates, by Terrence Stutz, Dallas Morning News 11-2-2012

OCTOBER 2012


"Everyone knows that all of the factories are in terrible shape."  “Weevils floating in vials of heparin. Morphine cartridges that contain up to twice the labeled dose. Manufacturing plants with rusty tools, mold in production areas and — in one memorable case — a barrel of urine.”

“These recent quality lapses at big drug companies show that contamination and shoddy practices extend well beyond the loosely regulated compounding pharmacies that have attracted attention because of their link to an outbreak of meningitis.”

“In the last three years, six of the major manufacturers of sterile injectable drugs… have been warned by the Food and Drug Administration about serious violations of manufacturing rules.

Excerpted from: Lapses at Big Drug Factories Add to Shortages and Danger By KATIE THOMAS, New York Times 10-17-12.


$hare the pain. “Insurance companies, often stuck with the tab for health services when a medical device fails, are ready to share the pain.”

“As the number of costly, high-profile recalls rises, along with pressure to cut their own spending, insurers are starting to pin more of the responsibility on manufacturers.”

“If they succeed, medical device makers… will have even more costs in the wake of product recalls, the biggest of which can already lead to billions of dollars in expenses.

"The (insurance) plans are being more aggressive. The reason it gets so much more focus now is because there are so many cases," said Mark Fischer, chairman of Rawlings & Associates… that helps insurance companies recoup payments from the party that was deemed at fault for claims, a legal service known as subrogation.”

“In recent years, more than a hundred medical devices were recalled out of concern they could cause serious injury or death.”

Excerpted: Analysis: When implanted medical devices go wrong, who pays? By Debra Sherman, Reuters Oct 8 2012


Caveat Emptor!  “A quarter-century after the nation’s plastic surgeons received what amounted to carte blanche to perform liposuction, a new analysis suggests that the procedure is no safer...”

“…Throw into the mix an ample supply of seemingly unscrupulous physicians and state regulators who do not appear ready to crack down on them, and the result is a recipe for a national disaster.”

“Selma Calmes, MD, consultant in anesthesiology for the Los Angeles County Coroner/Medical Examiner, has begun to dig behind the details of patient death during liposuction—and she does not like what she’s finding.”

“There are hazards to liposuction that most people do not even realize,” Dr. Calmes said. “…tissue is traumatized by a trocar, and fat cells can be picked up by open blood vessels and carried to the heart and lungs.”

“Local anesthetic toxicity also is a real risk factor, …. Infection also is a concern during liposuction.”

“Yet liposuction can be risky even when anesthesiologists are providing care.”

Excerpted from: As Liposuction Deaths Mount, Study Exposes Cracks in Safety, by Michael Vlessides, Anesthesiology News Oct 2012


SEPTEMBER 2012

Distracted walking. “Many of us have done it -- checked our phones to read a new text or send a quick tweet as we stroll down the street. It only takes a few seconds, right?”

“But experts are blaming texting and walking on the rising number of pedestrian injuries and deaths among teens.”

“The study, Walking Safely: A Report to the Nation…found that the death rate among older teens is now twice that of younger kids, with 1.11 deaths per 100,000 members of the population as opposed to .47, .33, and .45 in the other cohorts respectively.”

“In addition to the increase in pedestrian injuries we saw among older teenagers, we also examined numerous outside reports about how much mobile use has increased among teens, “ she [Kate Carr, president and CEO of SafeKids Worldwide] says. “We know that the average number of texts per teen has risen dramatically. Couple that with drivers who are talking on the phone or texting, and you have distracted people on both sides of the equation. Our hypothesis is that the rise in injuries among these older teens is caused by their dramatic increase in their cell phone use.”

Excerpted from: Put down the phone and walk! Teen pedestrian injuries on rise, by Jacoba Urist, NBC News 9-23-12.


"I thought it was deceptive, and I was pretty angry…"  “A mandatory arbitration agreement is an often overlooked document tucked inside the package of admissions documents at many nursing homes these days. It can have an outsize impact if something goes wrong. But anxious seniors or their caregivers often sign every document that's put in front of them, perhaps only glancing at the content.”

“Agreeing to arbitrate is generally not in families' best interests, say consumer advocates. For one thing, it can be pricey. In addition to hiring a lawyer, the patient or family generally has to pay its share of the arbitrator's fee, which may come to hundreds of dollars an hour, says Paul Bland, a senior attorney at Public Justice, a public interest law firm based in Washington.”

“Court proceedings are…conducted in a public courtroom and leave a detailed public record that can inform industry practice and help develop case law, say experts. Not so with arbitration hearings, which are conducted in private and whose proceedings and materials are often protected by confidentiality rules.”

Excerpted from: Often Overlooked In Nursing Home Admission Paperwork Is An Arbitration Agreement, by Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News 9-17-12
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Endorsing bad behavior.  “In June, the Supreme Court issued a split decision that essentially granted immunity to workers' comp insurers in bad faith cases by ruling against…Timothy Ruttiger of Galveston.”

“In 2004, Ruttiger fell while carrying a bundle of electrical conduit for a Galveston supply company. He was scheduled to have hernia surgery…but the day before, his employer's insurer, Texas Mutual Insurance of Austin, canceled the procedure…the adjuster accused him of filing a fraudulent claim and hung up on him, according to the lawsuit.”

“Desperate to pay his bills, Ruttiger eventually settled the case…[and] later filed a bad faith claim…”

“A Houston jury awarded Ruttiger a total of $173,000, including attorney fees and interest. Texas Mutual appealed and lost. It appealed again to the Supreme Court, which reversed the jury's decision.”

“Then, the justices went a step further…they eliminated the provision of Texas' workers' compensation law that allowed workers to claim insurers acted in bad faith.”

“The court's decision was the "height of judicial activism and arrogance," said Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch…The justices essentially endorsed insurers' bad behavior while "injured workers and their families are left holding the bag," Winslow said.”

Excerpted from: Loren Steffy: Lawyer has uphill battle in workers' comp case, Houston Chronicle 9-7-2012.


Be afraid, be very afraid. “In a… late Friday afternoon media dump, the Texas Supreme Court released a series of anti-justice opinions. Among them was a dangerous ruling that gives predator doctors the benefit of the doubt just because they wear white coats and assault their victims in exam rooms.”

“The Court’s opinion in Losaiga v. Cerda requires victims to “conclusively establish” that they were assaulted prior to legal discovery, forcing patients to essentially prove they were assaulted before being allowed to gather evidence or bring their case.”

“This frightening expansion of the law is the latest in a series of opinions…that have dramatically restricted the ability to hold dangerous doctors and health care facilities accountable for claims not related to the medical standard of care…SCOTX has ruled that essentially anything bad that happens in a hospital or doctor’s office is medical malpractice. No matter if it is sexual assault, dangerous working conditions, broken beds, or even spider bites.”

Excerpted from: Release: SCOTX Gives Pedophile Doctors Benefit of the Doubt, Texas Watch 8-31-12

AUGUST 2012

Oh no she didn’t.  “A decision to table new rules intended to protect consumers has landed state Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman in hot water with the chairman of the Senate Nominations Committee, which will play a key role in the decision to confirm her appointment in the upcoming legislative session.”

“There are many senators, Republican and Democratic, that are concerned that she’s a little too pro-insurance company,” said Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, who chairs the Senate Nominations Committee.”

“The so-called balance billing rules Kitzman put the brakes on in December — measures put in place by her predecessor that would have taken effect this spring — would have required health insurance companies to make clear to policyholders which providers are included in their network, and thus covered by their health plan.”

Excerpted from: Deuell to Kitzman: Reconsider Consumer Rules, by Becca Aaronson, Texas Tribune (AP) 8-28-12


Abandonment.  “Texas’ top insurance regulator has rescinded new rules designed to help consumers avoid a common pitfall when they seek medical treatment — big bills for out-of-network care — a move that angers consumer advocates and doctors groups.”

“The rules were meant to give more than 4 million Texans covered by preferred provider organization health plans, or PPOs, more information about whether they’d pay the higher out-of-network costs if they were hospitalized and seen by a specialist. Many have been surprised to be on the hook for higher bills for the specialists’ services, even though the hospital itself was part of their insurer’s preferred network.”

“But state Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman suspended most new protections against “balance billing” in December… Earlier this summer, she dropped several of the disclosure requirements from a proposed rewrite of the rules, agreeing with health insurers that they weren’t needed, despite advocacy for them by her predecessor, Mike Geeslin.”

“Her decisions could cost consumers thousands of dollars on top of what they might expect to pay for a major health issue, if Kitzman rules that the extra costs don’t have to count against a patient’s maximum charges under their policies.”

Excerpted from: Rules to help Texans avoid surprise hospital bills are pulled, by ROBERT T. GARRETT, Dallas Morning News 8-21-12


Torts & Tea.  “…In Texas, we're learning what happens when you can't turn to a lawyer for help. Two strong forces are making it nearly impossible to seek redress for injury in state courts: sweeping tort reform laws and a Texas Supreme Court with an activist conservative bent. The results aren't pretty.”

“But it's not just attorneys involved in specific cases who believe the court is engaging in wrong-headed activism. Tea party activists are beginning to question whether Texas Republicans have dismantled the Seventh Amendment - the right to a jury trial - in their slavish devotion to limiting lawsuits.”

“Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips uses Texas as a cautionary tale against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's plan for federal tort reform. "Texans are losing their Seventh Amendment rights because they can't get lawyers to take cases anymore," Phillips wrote in a recent blog post.”

Excerpted from: Patricia Kilday Hart: Texas takes tort reform too far, Houston Chronicle, 8/10/2012.


Uncertain Future.  Michelle Gaines was the most popular girl at Palestine High School. The athletic, dark-haired 19-year-old was preparing to head off to Hill College on a soccer scholarship.

Her plans ended on June 11, 2006, when an 18-wheeler hauling an oil rig careened through a red light and crashed into her 2000 Buick.

Now, at the age of 26, Gaines has the mental maturity of a 12-year-old, no short-term memory and no peripheral vision. The former prom queen’s group of friends is long gone.

In 2010, a jury awarded Gaines more than $8 million in damages. The truck’s driver, its owner and another businessman involved with the oil rig were held liable, and the jury agreed with Gaines’ lawyers, who argued that after the accident there was an effort to cover up the businessman’s involvement with bribes and by destroying evidence.

But the state’s 12th Court of Appeals overturned the verdict last year… her future now rests with the Texas Supreme Court, which previously declined to hear the case. They say that if the court does not reconsider, it could set a precedent that allows defendants to avoid responsibility for their actions by destroying evidence and bribing witnesses.

Excerpted from: A Tragic Accident and a Continuing Legal Battle, By Brandi Grissom, Texas Tribune 7-29-12



Exactly.  “Vice President Joe Biden told 700 trial lawyers gathered in Chicago Monday he didn’t know what the country would do without them.”

“Man, I don’t know what we’d do without you — who is going to step up and take the case of the little guy who’s getting screwed?” Biden asked the lawyers gathered for the convention of the American Association for Justice…”

Excerpted from: Biden to lawyers here: What would we do without you?, By Abdon M. Pallasch, Chicago Sun Times 8-1-12


JULY 2012

Déjà vu.  The safety board [U.S. Chemical Safety Board], once again investigating a disaster involving BP, released findings that bore a chilling similarity to earlier ones. Its preliminary findings from its investigation of the Deepwater Horizon blowout two years ago drew a direct line between that disaster and BP's Texas City refinery explosion in 2005.

In the Deepwater Horizon case, the safety board found that BP didn't take the lessons of Texas City offshore, and most of the industry and the government regulators for offshore drilling hadn't either. Although companies have made improvements since the rig explosion, they still aren't placing enough emphasis on averting disaster.

Excerpted from: Loren Steffy: Oil industry, BP still haven't learned from fatal mistakes, Houston Chronicle 7-25-12


Surprise, Surprise, Surprise…Texas is last & first!  “Texas ranks last in the nation on a new federal government report card on health care quality.”

“The 2011 State Snapshots report is based on 155 quality measures gathered by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”

“Overall, Texas scored 31.61 out of 100 points. Texas has the nation's highest rate of uninsured people, which probably affects the rating, Moy [Dr. Ernest Moy, a medical officer at the agency's Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety] said. "With that many uninsured, there is less money to go around."

Excerpted from: Texas last in nation on health care report card, by Mary Ann Roser, Austin American Statesman, July 5, 2012


Not like any other crime.  “Mr. Sandusky’s trial will focus on alleged abuse that took place between 1994 and 2009. Lawyers have heard from at least one alleged Sandusky victim who can’t sue because he missed the statute of limitations cut off by nine months.”

“Statutes of limitation exist for sound reasons – after the passage of many years evidence can be hard to come by and memory isn’t always reliable. But we can’t treat child abuse exactly like other crimes. We can’t expect an 11-year-old boy to report what was done to him quickly, or even before he turns 23, especially if he has to reckon with a powerful institution—like Penn State, or the Roman Catholic Church—with an interest in covering up possible crimes.”
“A few states are revisiting deadlines for child sex abuse cases.”

Excerpted from: Humiliation, Shame and Fear, by ANDREW ROSENTHAL, New York Times 6-11-12


JUNE 2012

Colossal Colossus.  “Claims software used by many large auto and homeowners insurance vendors in the U.S. has allowed the companies to manipulate claim payments and "low-ball" customers, according to a new report from the Consumer Federation of America.”

“Injury evaluation software, including CSC's Colossus package, allows insurance companies to "tune" payment perimeters and reclassify injuries as less serious than the diagnosis from a doctor, said the report…”

“Insurers can also use the software to downgrade, en masse, the diagnosis of certain injuries, or pair the claims software with medical repricing software that reduces the "usual and customary" medical costs to be reimbursed, the report said.”

Excerpted from: Consumer group: Claims software helps insurers 'low-ball' customers, by Grant Gross, Computerworld.com 6-4-12.


Whose standard of care? “If Dr. Lindner had not performed the endoscopy, clearly Mr. Rooks' cardiorespiratory arrest would not have occurred and he would not have died,” Kenneth Hammerman, M.D."

“It's possible to meet the standard of care and still have a bad outcome.” Leigh Hopper, spokeswoman for the Texas Medical Board.”

“Those two statements lie at the heart of the case of David Michael Rooks. The 50-year-old died more than two years ago following a diagnostic endoscopy.”

Excerpted from: A key is what constitutes 'standard of care', By O. Ricardo Pimentel, Express-News columnist, 5-30-12.

 

MAY 2012

Trucks, trucks and more trucks. “Over the past decade, more than 300 oil and gas workers… were killed in highway crashes, the largest cause of fatalities in the industry. Many of these deaths were due in part to oil field exemptions from highway safety rules that allow truckers to work longer hours than drivers in most other industries, according to safety and health experts.”

“This threat will grow substantially in coming years, safety advocates warn. According to federal officials, more than 200,000 new oil and gas wells will be drilled nationwide over the next decade. And the drilling technique used at more than 90 percent of these wells, known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, leads to far more trucks on the road — roughly 500 to 1,500 truck trips per well — than traditional drilling, partly because fracking requires millions of gallons of water per well.”  Excerpted from: Deadliest Danger Isn’t at the Rig but on the Road, by IAN URBINA, New York Times 5-14-12


The TBME is supposed to be policing doctors and protecting the public but... “Top secret meetings, back-door deals and confidential complaints are all a part of the Texas Board of Medical Examiners. The state board is supposed to be policing doctors and protecting the public but some patients complain the system is a prescription for failure.”

“In 2003 Texas lawmakers put caps on medical malpractice lawsuits but promised to keep a tight rein on doctors by beefing up the Texas board.”

“Since 2003 the number of complaints rolling into the board has skyrocketed from 4,900 to more than 8,000 last year. But investigations are down to only 25 percent.”

“Cases are also taking much longer to resolve. That number is up to 328 days.” Excerpted: News Station Investigation: Medical Board by Becky Oliver, FOX DFW, May 8, 2012


What's the difference between a light pole and a utility pole?  “Joyce Thompson had just been diagnosed with breast cancer…when her only method of transportation was destroyed.”

“A city light pole fell on her car while it was parked in her driveway.”

“Thompson and her family thought the city would take responsibility for the falling pole…”

“When the city officials made clear they would not take responsibility for the damage to Thompson's Buick Roadmaster, she and her family sought out attorneys…”

[The family] “took the case to court, where the justice of the peace ruled that the city was not liable for the damage. The reason is because lawmakers, as part of the Texas Tort Claims Act, have said that cities are not liable for damage caused while performing certain government functions, such as providing lighting for safety.”

“The pole that fell on the Thompson's car was a light pole and had no utility lines attached to it.”  Excerpted from: City won't pay when poles crash on cars, by Shannon Wolfson, KXAN 5-2-1012

APRIL 2012

Check for injuries; call an ambulance when in doubt.  “The fender bender you were just in appears to be minor. No one looks injured and there is minimal damage to the vehicles. First breathe a sigh of relief – then take these precautions to help prevent your small accident from becoming a big problem.”

“Don’t assume there aren’t injuries…Even low-impact collisions can cause injuries, some not appearing until days after the accident.”  Excerpted from: The Do’s And Don’ts of A Minor Car Accident, State Farm Insurance Learning Center Website 2-15-12


Dentists drilling for gold.  “Texas toddlers being held in restraints as dentists at corporate-run clinics performed unnecessary root canals were among the dental horror stories told Wednesday at a House Public Health Committee hearing at the state Capitol.”

“The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners… was the subject of criticism by members of Texans for Dental Reform and unaffiliated residents, who called for legislative reform while levying accusations of ineptitude, a pattern of withholding or obscuring negative information about dentists, and failure to act against corporate-run dental clinics committing Medicaid fraud and harming patients.”

“The clinics in question often serve only Medicaid patients and pay one dentist to act as a prop by claiming ownership. The real owners of the clinics — usually private equity firms — are in the dental business for profit…” Excerpted from: Texas Dental Board is Accused of Ineptitude, by Becca Aaronson, Texas Tribune, April 12, 2012


Right before our eyes. “Civil jury trials are becoming rare in Texas.”

“The right to have disputes decided by a panel of fellow citizens is cited in the Declaration of Independence and explicitly confirmed in the constitutions of Texas and the United States.”

“But new statistics show that the right to “trial by jury” is quietly and steadily disappearing thanks to a mixture of tort reform laws and Texas appellate court decisions that have made it more difficult for parties in a lawsuit to have their disputes decided by juries. In addition, lawyers and judges say the expenses of litigation, including discovery and increased attorneys’ fees, have made getting a lawsuit to a jury cost prohibitive.”

“The result is that the system has made it so procedurally and financially onerous that individuals and even many companies can no longer have their peers judge their disputes. Excerpted from: Civil jury trials plummet in Texas, By MARK CURRIDEN (The Texas Lawbook www.texaslawbook.net) Dallas Morning News 4-3-12.

MARCH 2012

Trash junk policies.  “The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) has found that the overwhelming number of homeowners policies provide less coverage for continuous or repeated leakage from plumbing, heating, or air conditioning; backup of sewers and drains; and damage to foundations and slabs. Other coverage that has been slashed includes damage caused by theft, freezing pipes, falling trees, sudden discharge from heating or air conditioning systems, mold, and vehicles. Overall, reductions in coverage range up to 45%.”

“To make matters worse, insurance companies are forcing policyholders to shoulder more and more of the burden by switching from set dollar-based deductibles to percentage-based deductibles, with some going as high as 5%.” Excerpted from: Insurance Myth #1: “YOU’RE COVERED.”, Texas Watch (Eye on Texas Blog) March 21, 2012.


Not so trivial detail. “Across the country, dozens of lawsuits against generic pharmaceutical companies are being dismissed because of a Supreme Court decision last year that said the companies did not have control over what their labels said and therefore could not be sued for failing to alert patients about the risks of taking their drugs.”

“Lawyers for generic drug companies say their clients are able to provide low-cost drugs because their primary task is replicating drugs. If the companies were expected to take responsibility for updating their labels, “we would effectively start to turn generic companies into brand companies, and of course the tremendous cost savings that American consumers have benefitted from would start to wane,” said Jay Lefkowitz, who served as the lead attorney representing generic companies before the Supreme Court.” Excerpted from: Generic Drugs Proving Resistant to Damage Suits, By Katie Thomas, NY Times 3-21-12


Infrastructure, Wind damage & Sinkholes.  “As home insurance premiums skyrocket this year, many insurers are cutting back on what used to be standard coverage.”

“…weakening coverage comes at an already challenging time for homeowners. Insurance premiums are estimated to rise 5% this year to $1,004 on average, according to the Insurance Information Institute -- and in some cases, deductibles are rising too. In December, State Farm began informing policy holders in Texas with homes insured for at least $100,000 that their deductibles would move from a fixed dollar amount (starting at $500) to at least 1%...Company spokesman Gary Stephenson says the intention is "to minimize small or frivolous claims that some [policyholders] might have a tendency to file."  Excerpted from: 3 Ways Home Insurers Charge More, Cover Less, by ANNAMARIA ANDRIOTIS, SmartMoney March 9, 2012


Closing the gap. “Methodist officials said they did not know that Rivera-Alsina was under investigation until the Texas Medical Board made its disciplinary action public last week. That is entirely possible — and that’s where the problem exists.”

“This gap in the medical reporting process — in which the medical board is aware of investigations but hospitals are not alerted case by case — needs to be closed.”

“ doctors should be presumed innocent until all the facts are in. But for the safety of patients, hospitals should have a better way to find out about complaints than hoping that patients, internal whistle-blowers or the doctors themselves come forward.”

“Patient safety requires a system that efficiently alerts hospitals to doctors’ potential mistakes and makes sure those in a position to act have no excuses for inaction.” Excerpted from: Editorial: Better reporting of medical reviews is needed, Dallas Morning News 3-1-12

 

FEBRUARY 2012

It happens far too often. “Filthy, dangerous medical implements have been showing up in hospitals and outpatient surgery centers with alarming regularity.”

“It is difficult to know exactly how often dirty instruments are to blame for the infections that plague hospitals, since bacteria can hide anywhere from a doctor’s unwashed hands to a nurse’s dirty scrubs. But experts say it happens far more often than generally understood. “The cases we hear about,” said Dr. Melissa Schaefer, a CDC medical officer, “are only the tip of the iceberg.” Excerpted from: How dirty medical devices expose patients to infection, by Joe Eaton, iWatch News by The Center for Public Integrity 2-22-2012


Privileged from disclosure? “Parkland Memorial Hospital’s decision not to release a taxpayer-funded performance report, despite its subsequent leak to the press, has raised the ire of patients’ rights advocates…”

“Patients deserve as much information as they can get,” said Alex Winslow, executive director of consumer group Texas Watch, which monitors patient safety issues. “They have to make decisions about where they’re going to seek care, and they need to know if there are any dangers or pitfalls that they need to be aware of as they’re making those decisions.”  Excerpted from: Parkland's stand makes sense to some, not others, by Bill Hethcock, Dallas Business Journal,
2-15-12


Some things are better left unsaid?  “In a nationwide survey of 1,800 physicians, 17 percent had some level of disagreement with the notion that they should "never tell a patient something that is not true." Not only that, but 11 percent of those surveyed acknowledged that they had told a patient "something that was not true" in the past year.”

“The survey found that 34 percent did not completely agree that "all significant medical errors" should be disclosed to patients, with 20 percent saying they had withheld information about medical mistakes in the past year.”  Excerpted from: Many doctors hide the truth about medical errors, study finds, McClatchy/Tribune 2-9-2012


Please State Farm, define “in the end”.  "Southeast Texans need to get ready to find another home insurance provider if you're insured with State Farm.”

“Beginning on May 1, 2012, State Farm says it will no longer renew home insurance for 11,000 homeowners living near coastal areas.”

“The leading insurance company in Texas, State Farm says it can't afford to insure those living in areas prone to storms.”

"These changes will ensure that we are there for all of our Texas homeowner customers in the end," says State Farm Spokesperson Kevin Davis.”  Excerpted from: 11,000 to lose home insurance by Courtney Francisco, KCEN-TV 2-1-2012

JANUARY 2012

Predatory Capitalists.  “Though few people are aware of it, the nursing home industry is a classic example of a sector where "vulture capitalism" is destroying lives. With the graying of America, Wall Street is finding the nursing home sector to be increasingly attractive. Private equity firms are displacing public corporations and mom-and-pop operators… This trend has proven disastrous for nursing home residents…”

“These private equity investors cum "health care providers" seek to improve profitability by cutting costs, most notably labor costs.”

“The irony is that few people have been enablers of these practices more than Gingrich and Perry, who under the guise of "tort reform," have fostered policies that ensure that corporate predators are not required to fully account for their wrongdoing. Governor Perry's Texas is home to some of the nation's more draconian tort reform measures and Gingrich has long been a champion of similar policies...” Excerpted from: How vulture capitalism endangers America's elderly By Ken Connor


Junk paper. “Texas homeowners paid the most expensive insurance premiums in the country for the second year in a row… according to new figures from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.”

“For as long as anyone can remember, Texas has had among the highest insurance rates in the nation,” said Alex Winslow of Texas Watch…”

"The flip side is that coverage for most homeowners is getting slashed while their rates keep going up. With higher deductibles, expanded exclusions and a growing number of junk policies, Texas policyholders are being forced to pay more for less,” he said. “It’s like being forced to pay Cadillac prices and getting stuck with a clunker.”  Excerpted from: Texas homeowners pay highest insurance premiums for second year in a row, By TERRENCE STUTZ, Dallas Morning News 1-9-12


Truth or fiction? “…pushing out false descriptions of lawsuits intended to outrage the reader or listener have been the cornerstone of the “tort reform” movement for years.”

“It’s not like these PR stunts are any big secret. Even if you haven’t seen Hot Coffee (HBO Signature is showing it again this month…), we know that Snopes.com, a website that debunks urban legends, found that a list of six crazy “real lawsuits” circulating around the Internet since May 2001 was entirely made up….”

“People deserve to know the truth, right? They sure don’t deserve to be played by PR campaigns and lobbying agendas.” Excerpted from: Cooked-Up Lawsuits and the Agenda Behind Them, www.thepoptort.com (Center for Justice & Democracy blog) 1-4-2012