October 15, 2004 News

Religion in Medicine



Money Issues

Medical Board

Religion in Medicine

In a recent article, Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe wrote about faith based medicine.  The article stated that federal employees will be offered a Catholic based HMO in Illinois.  Starting in November and in 31 counties the plan will be offered.  In many of the counties Catholic hospitals are the only hospitals.  The plan will not cover abortion, contraception, sterilization or fertility.  Of course, most plans don't cover fertility.  This goes with the conscience clauses that have passed in several states.  The problem is when the conscience clause extends not just to the individual but to the institution as well.  She ended her article with the statement " At some point doesn't religious practice become medical malpractice?  We can only pray."        Top


Phoebe Hospital in Albany, Georgia, has blinked.  They have dropped their frivolous lawsuit against two whistleblowers.  The whistleblowers have decided to continue their countersuit against the hospital until the CEO resigns.  This was the start of the Scruggs lawsuits against the nation's non-profits.  Last month I published a letter from one of the whistleblowers, Charles Rehberg.

The feds have backed off on the earlier ruling that would have required hospitals that wanted federal aid for treatment of the undocumented aliens to ask for immigration status.  The administration has said that this is no longer required. The CMS now will have the hospital ask for the SSN and foreign drivers license.  This is to make sure the money is spent on the undocumented aliens.  Of course, no hospital will collect this. 

One of the hospitals in the LA area that was scheduled to close at the end of the year has closed its ED now.  They could not find the specialists to man it.  The ED director did not know about it until after the fact.  The trauma centers and EDs are hoping Proposition 67 on the November 2 ballot will pass.  That is doubtful since it is a tax on phone bills with no limitation on cell phone bills.  It also needs 2/3 vote to pass since it is a tax measure.

There are two interesting stories out of the LA area.  The first is the talks that are currently going on to have California Hospital become a trauma unit to take the place of the poorly run King Hospital.  They were originally a trauma center but pulled out after they found out the costs.  California Hospital is owned by CHW and is already losing money but would pick up 75% of charges for all uninsured trauma patients.  It also wouldn't cost alot to start the program except they probably would need to bring in and pay more physicians.

In a second story, the closed Santa Paula Hospital in Ventura County may get a new life.  The Board of Supes is considering a $2.75 million deal to reopen the hospital and sell part of the surrounding land to pay off the $14 million in debt.

At the USC Medical Center the nurse ratio law has come into it's ugly being.  The nurses state they have already enough patients but there are others that need care.  The union people have come to the hospital to take care of their nurses and the hospital has called the police to have them removed.  The union dupe wants the county to hire 1200 more nurses.  There is no money nor nurses.  

Lest we forget King/Drew,  a nurse turned off a monitor in the ICU and so didn't hear it, falsified the chart  and a patient died.  The Board is also planning to give the reins to an outside firm Navigant Consulting as promised to the feds.  The unions may not be happy since Navigant and its subsidiary Hunter have a habit of firing employees.  Several politicos, who got the hospital into the mess, are looking to shift blame to the County Health Director.  They are asking for his head.  He will not resign, since he is right.  He is also investigating two other nurse related patient record falsifications.  

In Hawaii, almost all the hospitals have begun paying their on-call physicians.  This is especially true in the outer islands.  If they don't, there are flights from the outer islands to Oahu.        Top 


The Wall Street Journal had a page one article on the med mal caps and how this makes some attorneys turn down equivocal cases or those where there is not alot of actual out of pocket damages.  The spokesperson for AARP and NOW both believe are anti their constituents since they are either retired or housewives and have no economic value.  This sort of shortchanges their constituents.

An Ohio judge has thrown out the verdict in the largest malpractice suit in the state's history and called for anew trial.  He felt the jury was under the influence of passion and prejudice when they awarded the plaintiff $30 million for CP in a negligent birth action.  The legal argument was a farce.  The plaintiff had intrauterine growth retardation and was sent to the hospital for tests.  A C-Section was performed two hours later.  The plaintiff claimed if it had been done one hour earlier there would have been no CP.  The $30 million was divided half for the care of the patient and half for non-economic damages.  

Senator Frist has backed the Ohio platform of the newly passed med mal reform.  He took to task the licensing of physicians as proof of more physicians coming to an area.  He stated that many retired physicians (like me) continue to hold their active license.  

The Ohio insurers are continuing to keep their rates high until the passed laws are Supreme Court tested.  They've been burned before by the Democratic Ohio Supreme Court.  That is the reason that there are so many Republicans running for the four open Supreme Court seats.  

The Chief of Staff at a Maryland hospital has agreed to postpone the elective surgical stoppage after meeting with the Governor.  The Governor needs to call a special session just before elections to get the legislature involved.  If he doesn't call the special session, the physicians should restart their plans and not listen to the false promises.

Maryland's largest med mal insurer has refused to voluntarily give information to the state senate commission looking into the med mal problem in the state.  The information asked for would require a huge expenditure of time by the insurer and is only been asked for knowing the company would not give it.  The commission wanted figures by payout by specialties and how insurance rates would change if the company used lower estimates for return on investment income along with much of the same.  The commission is headed by a Democrat.  The company also believes the claims numbers would be used by plaintiffs attorneys to the insurers detriment.    

In the meantime Maryland's hospitals are getting hit with a 34% malpractice increase.  This should put even more pressure on the Democratic controlled legislature to be called into special session. 

The Maryland Governor, Senate Leader and House Leader are meeting to fashion a deal on the med mal issue.  

The Connecticut Attorney General has asked for a hearing on the rate increases on the state's providers.  The Insurance Commission has already ordered the reviews but the Attorney General wants hearings on the outcomes of the reviews. 

The biased AARP and Consumers Union have funded a study that showed med mal premiums are not tied to verdicts but to cyclical business trends.  He found the same thing in the 1970 and 1980s while working for the same company.  His theory is that the long payout of up to 10-15 years allows the med mal carriers to love the float versus auto claims where the payout is only 15 months.        Top

Money Issues

The average annual premium for a family is not very different for all types of insurance.  In 2004, the average family would pay $9,733 for HMO, $10,888 for PPO, $10,999 for POS and $11,165 for Fee For Service.  This is $811 per month for the restrictive HMO and $930 for the FFS, a difference of $119 per month per family.   This came fro AIS Managed Care Facts and Data.  

In Minnesota HealthPartners, a HMO, has stated it will withhold payment for surgical procedures that are done in error.  These include wrong side surgery, surgery where a foreign body is left inside, or if done on a wrong patient.  This may be about 2-3 cases a year for the HMO and does send a message to be more careful. 

The new health care premiums will be up about 15% for the next year.  There will also be increases in co-pays.  Employees will pay about 20% of the cost of employer health insurance.

How much is your life worth?  Hospitals believe it's about $200,000.  they would have to pay a radiologist about $250,000 to be employed and work doing night time exams.  Instead they are "nighthawking" which is sending CT, MRI and other x-rays overseas to radiologists in Israel, Pakistan and Australia.  If someone has a question, it is difficult to go down the hall and asked the radiologist what he/she meant.  The turnaround time is good.  For routine exams it is 30 minutes and for high risk it is 10 minutes.  The offshore radiologist must be credentialed by the state and by the hospital.  Top

Medical Board

The Connecticut Med Board is under fire by the Deputy Health Commissioner for not disciplining  enough physicians.  The hassle came after the Board allowed a plastic surgeon to continue to practice surgery in his office while hiring a unqualified nurse to give anesthesia.  The patient is in a irreversible coma.  It is the duty of the Health Department in this state to investigate physician complaints and the duty of the Board to act as judge.  The Medical Society is for a single entity that only handles these cases.        Top


DISCLAIMER: Although this article is updated periodically, it reflects the author's point of view at the time of publication. Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel before acting on any of the information presented.