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Over Easy

3:41 am in Economy, Environment, Government, Health care, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

In tribute to Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner, the Over Easy community gathers to discuss news of the day of a morning.

Militia that had kidnapped Libyan Prime Minister Zeidan released him this morning.

The militia, which had been hired by the government to provide security in Tripoli, said it “arrested” Zeidan after US Secretary of State John Kerry said Libya had a role in the weekend capture in the city of Abu Anas al-Liby.

Potential victims of global economic crisis are gulping nervously about U.S. radicals’ antics.

“The effects of any failure to repay the debt would be felt right away, leading to potentially major disruptions in financial markets,” IMF’s chief economist Olivier Blanchardsaid in a press briefing. “It could well be that what is now a (U.S.) recovery would turn into a recession or even worse.”

Advances made in treatment of alzheimers, at the Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit, based at the University of Leicester, are hailed as a turning point, treating the mechanisms that overprotect affected material by shutting down.

“What’s really exciting is a compound has completely prevented neurodegeneration and that’s a first.

“This isn’t the compound you would use in people, but it means we can do it and it’s a start.”

The teacher strike in Rio de Janeiro erupted in violence as teachers hold out for better pay and treatment, and better allocation of national resources.

After the million-strong protests three months ago, the president, Dilma Rousseff, tried to assuage public anger with a promise to divert more revenue to education and health.

But scepticism remains. Brazil spends a similar amount of its GDP on education as the UK, but the returns on this public investment are poor. With short school hours, high truancy rates and comparatively poor academic results, many suspect the system is mired in corruption and excessive bureaucracy.

In Rio, the teachers’ union says the mayor’s pay offer is too low. Many feel that the public education system is failing the nation and needs major reform. They have been on strike for 46 days.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has allowed U.N. weapons inspectors begin destruction of chemical weapons there, and has won praise from those wanting peace actually to break out. Mine, too. This would be a good way to begin letting the nation get back from the precipice of self-destruction.

The destruction comes in the wake of gruesome Aug. 21 chemical attack in Damascus, which the United States and rebel leaders said killed over a thousand civilans, including hundreds of children.

Never.Give.Up.

Tort Reform Means You Pay For Others’ Errors

4:00 am in Government, Health care, State Government by Ruth Calvo

Tort reform sign at a Tea Party rally against health care reform. (photo: Pittsford Patriot via Flickr)

One of the favorite choices of the wingnuts for actual legislation has always been ‘tort reform’.  It was their hue and cry to get out of making health care productive for most citizens, even though it is not an area subject to federal legislation.

In Texas where there has been extensive tort reform, conditions have been created that are ideal for incompetence and outright fraud. One area that has seen a true disaster is in emergency room care. Under conditions that may include extreme stress, mistakes can occur but the patient maimed for life cannot count on any compensation for those mistakes.

Since the new law went into effect, doctors’ malpractice insurance rates have fallen by nearly 30 percent statewide, according to the Texas Department of Insurance. And 82 Texas counties have seen a net gain in emergency physicians, including 26 counties that previously had none, says Jon Opelt, executive director of the pro-tort-reform Texas Alliance for Patient Access. “It has really enhanced the number of high-demand specialists — neurosurgeons, obstetricians, anesthesiologists — in parts of Texas where there weren’t any,” says Rocky Wilcox, general counsel for the Texas Medical Association.

But medical malpractice attorneys say these developments have come at the expense of Texas patients. Texans expect to receive extraordinary care in an emergency room, the attorneys say. Instead, state courts have ruled that a “lower standard of care” is acceptable for doctors practicing in ERs. They argue the “willful and wanton” rule means emergency room care in Texas is some of the most dangerous in the country, because no one can be held accountable for botched diagnoses or flat-out wrong care.

I happen to live in a small town not too far from Dallas for doctors and others to commute reasonably. Partly for that reason, our hospital is known to be something of a reservoir of physicians that didn’t make it in the big city. Of course, there are exceptions, but generally we know that this hospital ER is really a very last resort. In case of severe injuries, it is generally requested that the patient be transported to a better, that is, uh, better equipped medical facility.

If you are not able to work and pay your bills, face it, knowing you will get no compensation for being rendered disabled is the worst of all possible worlds. Its name is tort reform. Being the ultimate resort of doctors most worried about malpractice claims isn’t the state you want to be in, either.

There are other areas in which tort reform is a full employment plan for the worst practitioners. When I drive through rush hour traffic, I don’t usually think about it to avoid panic. If I am hit by another driver, even under egregious circumstances, damages are not really dependable for the victim. Let’s see, in a state that has provided refuge for medically incompetent doctors, what do you think are the qualifications for truck drivers and delivery personnel. Not a good prospect when you hit the road, is it?  I’d stay out of any construction sites, too, since just taking away barriers to your dangerous zones isn’t going to make the city worry. They’ve got tort reform. Yeehaw.

We’re not all of us ‘slip and fall’ artists, the perpetual  and/or professional victims of injury by encounter with hazards that happen to be insured by a business entity. We all know about fraud by that means, but in the tort reform state an innocent fall on or off of a hazardous structure may cost you your total means of support. If you slip on my front stairs, my insurance company has its own lawyers all set to protect their coffers, not you. Good luck in ER, too. Tort reform is hazardous to your health in many, many ways.

Of course, under present legal constructions, if you are injured by some particularly crazy behavior on the part of another “party”, to collect damages you have to prove “intent”. That other “party” may have driven out in front of you and stopped suddenly, but can you show that the “party” intended to wrack up his own car to collect on the insurance?

The most dangerous elements love tort reform. When the wingnuts insist on its being a great way to save your money, steer clear. They are hazardous to your health and your retirement planning.

Ignoring That There Is a War: Pentagon Budget

7:36 am in Government, Health care, Military by Ruth Calvo

photo: U.S. Army via Flickr

Happy Pearl Harbor Day!

That this simply wasn’t surrounded with astonished wonder that the Pentagon isn’t aware of the stuff that happens when people bomb and shoot at each other is more than painful.  It’s downright embarrassing.

Figures for health care from the Pentagon are calling it another evidence of health care inflation that they’re spending so much more than we were in 2001.

Mirroring the private sector trend, expenses have skyrocketed within the military’s health system. The military spent $19 billion on health care in 2001 — and $49 billion in 2010. The Department of Defense forecasts a continued rise of 5% to 7% a year.

The bottom line: Health care will account for 10% of the Pentagon budget by 2015.

(snip)

a private sector group led by Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin offered a similar solution that would increase co-pays and enrollment fees for retired veterans not yet eligible for Medicare from 11% to 27%, and introduce nominal fees for retired veterans who use Tricare as a supplemental insurance plan.

Most Tricare reform plans generate savings by targeting two areas.

The first is shifting the burden of health care costs from the Pentagon to the private sector companies that employ many veterans after they leave the military.

And the second is a modest fee increase on retired Tricare enrollees that would still leave them with far smaller bills than individuals in private sector plans.

That’s right, folks. For going to war we enlist our vets (formerly “The Troops”) in a higher deductible plan if they choose to continue rebuilding.

It’s time to remove the military from administering any budget at all. Once again, an empowered Investigator/Inspector General is called for.

The cost of military service should not include being subject forever after to the blind disengagement of Pentagon budget morons.

States’ Rights to Debt

7:20 am in Government, Health care, State Government by Ruth Calvo

photo: jmtimages via Flickr

Increasingly spectacular in his public pronouncements as the right strays ever farther from rational thought, Texas’ governor Perry has moved from suggesting he wants to secede to a threat to cut medicaid off from the state’s needy.   There actually has been study of the prospect authorized by the legislature.  Predictably,  it discovered a few problems, like most of us would.  While decent human beings would choose not to condemn poor folks to death, the study finds that the losses to medical facilities would be really fierce.

Up to 2.6 million Texans — many of them children — could become uninsured. And hospitals would still be required by federal law to treat medical emergencies, potentially adding billions of dollars in annual uncompensated care costs funded at the local level. Meanwhile, Texans would continue to pay federal taxes to support other states’ Medicaid spending, the report notes.

Texas would “lose billions each year in federal funds; billions of dollars in indigent health care costs would shift from the state and federal levels to local governments, public hospital districts, medical providers, and the privately insured; and 2.6 million Texas residents could lose health insurance,” the report states.

Still, the escalating Medicaid costs facing the state — up 170 percent in the last 11 years, and accounting for a quarter of the state budget — have far exceeded the growth in state tax revenue, inflation and population, and are unsustainable, the report notes. The HHSC report says the best solution is for the federal government to give states greater responsibility over program costs

Naturally, this report finds that the unsustainable health crisis individuals would face would be terrible – for the taxpayer and the medical community.

The U.S. being the only ‘advanced’ nation that submits to a for-profit medical system is not addressed by this report.   That our citizens are only a fall away from destitution doesn’t worry the Texas lege.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Public Servants Defrauding the Public

8:00 am in Government, Health care by Ruth Calvo

In that long tradition of using governmental positions to work against the taxpayers who fund them, another officeholder in Texas has been exposed as using his position to defraud. As head of an office that should keep worker compensation costs reasonable while treating the injured worker for their injury, this official shields doctors from exclusion from the program when they acquire a record of inappropriate and excessive treatment that benefits no one but themselves.

Another side effect of this misuse of office has been stripping away public servants who actually attempted to give taxpayers the protections they should be getting from the government bodies they fund. Workers Compensation Commissioner Rod Bordelon has most recently removed an investigator from his office for filing efforts to remove public funding from doctors who have shown themselves to be motivated by profits more than they are concerned in patient treatment.

Lockhart, along with three other former division employees who have come forward, say the division’s staff identified and recommended sanctions for nearly 70 Texas physicians who overbilled and overtreated patients, engaging in such practices as ordering needless surgeries or prescribing unnecessary narcotics. In the process, the former employees say, a relatively small number of rogue doctors cost insurers millions of dollars and, more importantly, placed patients in harm’s way. Yet since 2005, division records show, the state has sanctioned just five doctors with removal from the workers’ comp system — and only in cases involving paperwork violations rather than harm to patients. Read the rest of this entry →

Following The Money

2:24 pm in Health care, Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

It’s not unsurprising that Time magazine’s comprehensive review of the big obstacles health care must get over starts with those costs that were not a problem for the atrocities of the worst administration in history. The economy is in the toilet because of wars and unconstitutional, deregulated executive branch policies. Now that economic toilet is being foisted off as the biggest obstacle to the public interest.

When the public interest comes up, the nation’s right wing suddenly wants to balance the budget. This is an indication of their skewed value system. The government the wingers see as ‘the problem’ is there for our benefit. The social contract that powers that government is overridden by that right wing that devotes its operations to keeping public interests from interfering with corporate welfare.

Read the rest of this entry →