Healthcare Update — 06-07-2010


See more health care news from around the web over at the Satellite Edition on ER Stories.

“I liked your testimony. By the way … would you mind taking a look at this mole on my back?” Juror in trouble after asking defendant physician for medical advice during medical malpractice case. The now former juror gets to sit in the defendant’s seat while his attorney explains why the judge should not hold him in contempt of court.

Another attack on the Feres Doctrine which prevents malpractice victims in the armed forces from suing for their injuries. A patient goes to surgery for an appendectomy and ends up dead. The nurse anesthetist who managed his care put the breathing tube in his esophagus instead of in his windpipe, essentially suffocating the patient to death. The court dismissed the case. Now the family’s attorney vows to take an appeal to the US Supreme Court.
Isn’t it ironic how the government can put the big hurt on private hospitals for failing to follow basic safety precautions but how government hospitals can ignore those same precautions, kill people, and suffer no consequences whatsoever?

News crew in Bakersfield, California follows around an emergency physician
. To make things more realistic, the crew will have to film ten different physicians at the same time, will only be paid 20% of its usual and customary salary, will have to wait several months to get paid, and will have to sit through a malpractice trial for the next 5 years because they didn’t film the physician correctly.

He’ll be carrying around an oxygen canister at his senior prom. Two year old smokes 2 packs of cigarettes per day and has temper tantrum when parents refuse to give him cigarettes.

Neat idea to curb abuse of prescription medications turned down. FDA nixxes idea to put niacin in Vicodin tablets to deter abuse. Niacin is a vitamin that is also used to lower cholesterol. Take too much niacin at once and you get the undesirable side effect of skin flushing. Higher overdoses can cause palpitations and liver damage. The FDA advisory committee was concerned that adding niacin did not have “a definitive advantage, and it has associated side effects.” The definitive advantage is that it causes side effects to curb narcotic abuse when added to pain medications. Added advantage: Lower cholesterol in chronic pain patients. Oh well. Good idea, anyway.

Health care plan savings at work. More than 84,000 seniors in Medicare’s prescription “doughnut hole” will get $250 rebate check for their prescription drug costs, totaling more than $21 million in health care savings.
Why don’t we forget the “doughnut hole” and provide generic medications to seniors for free? Make them pay some percentage of the cost (33% perhaps?) of any name brand medications and give them their generic medications. The market forces would create a huge demand for generic medications at that point. Tell me how such a policy wouldn’t cause a downward trend in pricing for most medications — and a huge cost savings for the health care system.

More health care plan savings. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Obama health care plan could add at least an additional $115 billion in costs over the next 10 years, pushing the total cost of the package over $1 trillion.

Here’s one way to retire early – file a whistleblower lawsuit against your employer. Christ Hospital in Cincinnati settled a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that it provided improper kickbacks to cardiologists who brought in the most money to the hospital. The Justice Department sought $1 billion in damages. Christ Hospital and other defendants agreed to pay $108 million. The cardiologist whistleblower, Dr. Harry Fry will walk away with $23 million of that money.

There is a fungus among us. FDA issues warning and Claris Pharmaceuticals issues recall after bags of intravenous ciprofloxin, metronidazole, and ondansetron found with “floating matter” in the bags. The floaters in one of the Flagyl bags was found to be Cladosporium mold.

Ohio punk assaults nurse in emergency department. Apparently too many energy drinks and not enough marijuana on board.

Long Island man fakes being police officer on four separate occasions to get pain medications in emergency department.

Here’s an idea to increase access to health care: Open up “health houses” like they have in Iran. The houses are staffed by community citizens instead of medical providers and the care provided is free. This was one of my radical ideas to improve the house of medicine a year or so ago – get rid of licensing requirements and let anyone provide care.

Most hospitals paying physicians to take call for emergency departments. Some specialists such as neurosurgeons make $1600+ per day just being on call. At issue are a shortage of specialists – 40% of hospitals couldn’t find orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons to cover emergency call and 30% of hospitals couldn’t find plastics, hand surgery, ear-nose-and-throat, and general surgery coverage. Lack of paying patients and fear of being sued for malpractice by an ED patient are cited as other deterrents to specialists taking emergency department call.
What? Lawsuits decrease availability of medical care? Blasphemy!
Next look for the Department of Justice to begin charging the specialists with crimes for increasing the market costs by refusing to be on call.


  1. I didn’t even respond since there’s still no evidence it’s true. I’m talking about actual empirical information, not “I think it’s true so therefore it must be fact”.

  2. Re: the donut hole. Paying 33% for name brand drugs sounds reasonable, except that for some conditions a single name-brand drug may be the only one in it’s class and costs $1000/mo or more. Think people with Multiple Sclerosis, Cancer, end stage renal disease, etc.

  3. WC,

    Here is a way not to retire early:

    Basically, an ophthalmologist would inject half the drug needed into each patients’ eye to treat macular edema or ARMD. He would sell the rest back to the supplier (2K a vial). His partners found out, reported him for Medicare fraud. Their practice then got stuck with a huge penalty to pay to Medicare. That should really encourage us to police ourselves.

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