Healthcare Update — 03-26-2012


Also see more medical news from around the web at ER and at

Woman awarded $22 million at trial after suing hospital when she was rendered a quadriplegic after “unnecessary” procedure was performed to evaluate her migraine headaches.

Number of head CT scans ordered by emergency physicians varies up to two fold between physicians.
Interesting how this article is published shortly before the implementation of Medicare’s plans to refuse payment for head CT scans which are retrospectively deemed to be normal.
I’d like to see comparisons between head CT use and lawsuits. I’d also like to see comparisons between head CT use and patient satisfaction scores.

“Roughly four school busloads of children are seen in emergency rooms for medication-related treatment every day in the U.S.”
Kids getting sick from their parents’ medication? We have to do something about that. Obviously the proper Joint Commission response would be to ban medications … or parents.

#ILikeObamacare … “Because I’m too poor to pay for insurance – Sent from my iPad 3”
Conservatives hijack the Twitter hashtag that the President’s campaign created to tout the health care law. Multiple sarcastic tweets ensue.
Hat Tip to Instapundit.

A government mandate to purchase health insurance. If we cross this line and begin sliding down the slippery slope, what WON’T the government be able to mandate that we purchase? Thanks to Denise for the link.

University of Illinois settles lawsuit for $6 million after patient dies from splenectomy complications when surgeon is performing first surgery using robotic equipment.

Senate passes HR 5 to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Also attached to the bill are several other more controversial provisions such as “to extend liability coverage to on-call and emergency room physicians; grant limited civil liability protection to health professionals that volunteer at federally declared disaster sites; and restore the application of antitrust laws to the business of health insurance.” President Obama’s advisors have already threatened that the President will veto the bill if it passes the House.

That’s a lot of malpractice suits. Medical malpractice lawsuits against VA hospitals climb 33% in 5 years. The largest single payout was $275,000. Several claims had to do with improper sterilization of reusable medical equipment. But you won’t see those types of statistics on the “Hospital Compare” web site. The feds are OK pointing fingers at everyone else, but they don’t want anyone looking at the quality of the care that they provide. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Fourteen year old girl dies from heart attack – allegedly from drinking two Monster energy drinks within 24 hours. Horrible tragedy, but I’m not so sure I buy the link between the energy drinks and this young girl’s death.
Another article reporting on the incident notes that emergency department visits from caffeine-related issues have risen more than tenfold since 2005.



  1. “Interesting how this article is published shortly before the implementation of Medicare’s plans to refuse payment for head CT scans which are retrospectively deemed to be normal.”

    Please tell me this is a joke! I can’t tell.

  2. I wonder if the increased claims against the VA is a function of quality or a function of increased number of patients courtesy of our overseas adventures.

    • Perhaps a result at the numbers of vets who are young and healthy (except for the missing body part) and have the mental acuity and presence of mind to sue…

  3. Speaking of government and healthcare, did any of the physician lobbying organizations file amicus briefs in the case before the Supreme Court this week?

    If not, why not? If so, where’d they come down on it?

    That’s probably the most important healthcare news of the week, year, decade.

  4. Dwight Burdick, MD, FACEP on

    I find myself in the unusual position of joining most of you in a national policy issue.
    The ACA, “Obamacare” should be overturned by Congress or thrown out by the Court. It is a thoroughly flawed piece of work, one which will accelerate our present debt death spiral, accelerate the transfer of the assets of the 99% to the 1%, and further damage the troubled relationship between a dysfunctional government and our medical community.
    Cost controls are mostly missing. The apparent restriction requiring insurance companies to spend 80% of premiums on actual health care offers a huge profit incentive for insurance companies to accelerate the flow of cash from higher premiums into reimbursement for more invasive, more expensive interventions in more advanced disease. There is a correspondingly huge disincentive for preventive medicine and public health, interventions which would only decrease the cash flow through the insurance industry coffers.
    These incentives for insurance company actions to increase health care expenditure are compounded by a government mandate that the 99% (politicians and other 1%’ers excused) purchase a commercial product with little regulation to prevent price gouging by the vendors of that product.
    On top of this massive windfall for big insurance, the cost of additional layers of expensive bureaucratic interference in the process will be added to the tax invoice delivered to the 99%.
    Most galling to me, a 70 y/o father and grandfather, is the end result, kicking the can on down the road where my children and my children’s children will be expected to pick up the tab tomorrow for the massive national debt we seem to be intent on leaving in our rush to get a little more for ourselves today.
    In the mandate is another insult to our children. We will require them to purchase an irrationally expensive commercial product, a product which will require them to massively subsidize the medical care costs of my generation. If our natural aging processes were not enough, we have added an unrealistic expectation of unlimited public spending for life and youth extending measures, while we continue to pursue self destructive behaviors with major health care cost implications.
    I am appalled at the aberration into which us old and middle aged greedy bast*rds have devolved.

    Here I am joining my ideological enemies of the Right in their opposition. The least I can do is present an alternative vision.
    The minimum would be a Public Option. Better yet, Single Payer. Optimally, Universal National Health Care. How can we be so blind to the obvious? All of the rest of the developed world, and some of the undeveloped world, spends half and receives statistically better health care. Imagine the effect of a 50% reduction in health care expenditures on our burgeoning national debt. If we lack the imagination to create something unique, a new American Health Care System rooted in both evidence based and cost effective health care, at least we could just copy number one, France, or maybe one of the Scandinavian countries. Less effectively, we could look into Medicare or the VA, where administrative overhead arguably may run as low as 3%.
    To counter the front end loading of cost incident to establishing a new system, why not abandon our growing commitment to war without end, our pathetic determination to foist our dysfunctional form of government off on other unwilling states, our endless meddling in the internal affairs of others, and our self appointed role as the heavily armed watch captain violently prowling the world’s neighborhood.
    No matter where you stand on these issues, it is apparent that we cannot continue down this road of wealth transfer, endless war, ever increasing spending, ever increasing debt, and ever decreasing taxation. Worse than the inevitable consequence of national bankruptcy is the growing threat of blood in our streets.
    We are Physicians, Emergency Physicians. We have an obligation to our patients and to ourselves to promote an improved, higher quality, and more cost effective system of health care delivery. We also have a human obligation to our country and to our world to oppose violence, promote peace and understanding, and to join as a group in trying to promote realistic political solutions to the problems facing all of us.
    Dwight Burdick, MD, FACEP

  5. Roger Zimmerman on

    @Dr. Burdick,

    Your alternative prescription for complete socialization of health care finance has the virtue of being ideologically clear. Of course, this solution would guarantee the collapse of medicine as a progressive (in the true sense of that word) profession. Instead, medicine would become another public utility, with all of the concomitant mediocrity. Any doctor who couldn’t tolerate their every decision subject to the whims of bureaucrats would quit. To the extent that they could tolerate this, they wouldn’t be the kind of physician I would like to ask for treatment.

    And, if you think insurance company bureaucrats are just as bad as government bureaucrats, you are not being imaginative enough. At bottom, the government is force, pure and simple. Egged on by their constituents, from whom they derive their power, a politician has no interest in actually solving problems. He seeks only to appear to do so. See our current budget/deficit debacle as only the most obvious symptom of this fundamental reality.

    As for me, I do not wish my options for treatment to be decided by vote. I much prefer the chance to use my own earned wherewithal to determine the best tradeoff between expense and care, for myself and my loved ones. Currently, even with the government controlling half of every health care dollar, there are still such choices available to me. When the government pays for all health care, these choices will become increasingly rare, both by fiat and by the decisions of innovators to abandon their pursuit of new approaches, knowing that those same bureaucrats will be determining whether they allowed to innovate.

    If you really wanted to reduce the cost and increase the quality of medical care, you would advocate the solution that has worked in every other human endeavor – Laissez-Faire!

    Roger Zimmerman
    Just a Patient, thinking for himself.

    • Roger is absolutely right. What his solution is missing, though, is leadership from the providers of service, physicians.

      For some reason, they and their lobbyists are either unwilling, afraid, or simply opposed to separating themselves from the Medicare/Medicaid system en masse like we need to do to get back to a more straightforward transaction.

    • Amen.

      And the NHS works so well that no one with any money pays out-of-pocket for private health care–NOT!

      And in the United SueMeStates of America, what will happen the very first time someone with a lawyer on speed dial does NOT get what they want, think they need, what they saw on TV, or what their grandmother got!!

      We will not wait quietly in lines for hours for substandard care by a disinterested doc who has 98 more patients to see before lunch..

      • When the government takes over healthcare, everything will be an administrative procedure. The US of A is unconcerned about plaintiff’s lawyers suing them.

        And you also have to remember that the bulk of most malpractice awards is for medical bills, meaning it goes back to providers or to the health insurers. With that gone, claims will drop dramatically. No need to worry about the cost of care.

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