Monday, December 10, 2012

Rick Perry took his own rights away...

Rick Perry's strategist is now blaming Gov. Perry's doctors for his continued back pain and laments the fact that he can't sue because of tort reform...which, of course, Gov. Perry signed into law in 2003...

Mr. Carney blamed bad advice from a doctor, who said the Texas governor would recover from surgery more quickly than he did. Sadly, Mr. Carney continued, Mr. Perry has no recourse against the doctor because Texas has strict limits in medical malpractice cases, making such lawsuits mostly a waste of time.
“It’s just a fact; it’s not an excuse,” the strategist offered, according to a Washington Post account. “We passed tort reform in Texas, so we can’t actually sue the doctors for what they told him.”

Back in 2003, the Texas Legislature passed tort reform and later Governor Rick Perry and his wife pushed voters to change the constitution.  "Proposition 12 protects your family," said Anita Perry in a television commercial.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Secret that Doctors Know...and You Should Too.

I read this in Newsweek while getting ready for work this morning.  I'd like to say it surprised me, but unfortunately, it doesn't.  We live in a free country where we can get candid reviews on everything from restaurants to lawnmowers to investments, but when it comes to the most important thing--our health (and life itself)--we have almost no information about our hospitals.
A 2010 New England Journal of Medicine study concluded that as many as 25 percent of all hospitalized patients will experience a preventable medical error of some kind, and 100,000 will die annually because of errors. If medical error were a disease, it would be the sixth-leading cause of death in the country.
How can we as consumers of healthcare make informed choices when we don't have information on where the best and safest care is provided?
Take, for instance, the National Practitioner Data Bank collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is also known as the national “blacklist” of doctors. The public has absolutely no access to it. When I requested the list, I was given a version with the doctors’ names deleted; the only groups that can query the list are state medical boards or human-resources departments doing background checks. Ironically, sex offenders’ names are broadcast to the community when they move into town, but doctors who lose their license in one state because of sexual misconduct with a patient are shielded by name in the database if their license is later restored or if they continue to practice medicine in another state.
Competition and the free flow of information improves any product, industry, group of people.  At least one state, New York, is doing it right:

In the early 1990s, New York state set out to address the horrific patterns of bad outcomes that health officials had heard about in some of the state’s heart hospitals. Mark Chassin, who became health commissioner in 1992, didn’t want to just slap wrists. Instead, he and his team did something radical: they made heart-surgery death rates public. Instantly, New York heart hospitals with high mortality rates scrambled to improve. Hospital executives held meetings with heart surgeons, nurses, and techs to find out what they had to do to improve quality and safety. At one hospital, the staff reported that a surgeon wasn’t fit to be operating; his mortality rate was so high it was skewing the hospital’s average. His hospital administrators ordered him, point-blank, to stop doing heart surgery.
The result of the release of this data? Big, broad improvements in mortality statewide. Despite some criticism of the program’s notable loopholes, with each passing year of public reporting the state’s average death rate went down. In addition, bad outliers, like the hospital with the 18 percent mortality rate, were reined in. Erie County Medical Center was the state’s worst-performing hospital, with an overall mortality rate higher than that of soldiers wounded in the Iraq War. Within three years the mortality rate was cut to 7 percent, and in the years since, it has fallen to 1.7 percent. Introducing transparency to New York’s heart centers brought something very novel and powerful to health care: public accountability.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Tea Party Speaks Up for Victims of Negligence

A letter from Tea Partier Mark McCaig of Texans for Individual Rights/StopTLR to Republican officials in Texas who want to continue suing the federal government--these are some of the same Republicans that want to keep individuals and small businesses from suing for negligence caused by others, i.e. "tort reform."  
Make no mistake- there is absolutely NO difference between Attorney General Abbott going to court to defend the rights of Texans and a private attorney going to court to stand up for those who have been harmed.
Likewise, Texas Monthly reiterates what we have long known:  Texas Tort Reform Has Had No Effect on Physician Supply, Lowering Costs

...and not surprisingly Gov. Rick Perry gets it wrong also...

Four researchers—including a University of Texas law professor—concluded that there was no evidence that Texas physicians were leaving the state prior to the 2003 law, or that there was a significant increase in physicians moving to Texas because of better liability climate.
The 2003 legislation, which resulted a 70 percent decrease in medical malpractice claims, limited non-economic damages to $250,000 for a healthcare provider and $500,000 for healthcare facilities. Malpractice claim payouts dropped by more than 75 percent. Insurance premiums fell by about one half.
Gov. Rick Perry, during his failed presidential campaign, claimed that Texas has added 21,000 physicians because of the law. PolitiFact, a news organization that attempts to verify political statements, disputed that figure and the number of practicing physicians was 12,788, and quoted experts who credited the state’s increasing population rather than its liability climate.

Friday, August 24, 2012

More on Sanctioned Doctors

KXAN of Austin has more on the recent report by Public Citizen showing that 58% of sanctioned Texas doctors have still not been disciplined:

Some facts contained in the 18-page report regarding the severity of the doctors' offenses include:
  • Many of the physicians were disciplined by hospitals and other health care institutions because they were deemed an immediate threat to the health and safety of patients, incompetent or negligent, they committed sexual misconduct or insurance fraud, they abused drugs or alcohol, or they provided substandard care to patients.
  • A quarter of the 459 physicians have been sanctioned by health care facilities more than once.
  • Nearly half of the 459 physicians had one or more medical malpractice reports.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sanctioned Doctors not Disciplined due to Lack of Funding

Yet another thing Texas chooses to underfund...the Texas Medical Board... 

Choosing not to discipline gross misconduct of these bad apples brings down the good work that most physicians provide to us, thus lowering the health care standards to the detriment of everyone.  As Public Citizen reports, 459 Physicians Have Been Sanctioned by Texas Hospitals and Other Health Care Institutions But Not Disciplined by the State Medical Board:
Fifty-eight percent of Texas doctors who have been sanctioned for serious offenses by health care entities, mainly hospitals, over the past two decades have never been disciplined by the state medical board. This shows that the state must do a much better job to protect patients from such dangerous doctors, Public Citizen told Gov. Rick Perry today.
Some facts contained in the report regarding the severity of the offenses of the 459 doctors who escaped board sanctions include:
• Many of the physicians were disciplined by hospitals and other health care institutions because they were deemed an immediate threat to the health and safety of patients, incompetent or negligent, they committed sexual misconduct or insurance fraud, they abused drugs or alcohol, or they provided substandard care to patients.
• A quarter of the 459 physicians have been sanctioned by health care facilities more than once.
• Nearly half of the 459 physicians had one or more medical malpractice reports.
One of these physicians had clinical privileges restricted by a peer review committee in 2010 for substandard care. The physician had 11 medical malpractice payments between 1993 and 2011 for a total payout of $2.1 million, the reasons for which included: failure to diagnose (four cases); improper performance (two cases); improper management (two cases); failure to treat; improper technique; and performing an unnecessary procedure. One of the cases involved the death of a patient.

“These violations are not minor,” said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “In our investigation we’ve identified physicians who have committed gross breaches of medical and ethical standards, yet they have not been sanctioned by the state medical board, the institution whose primary duty is to make sure practitioners taking care of Texas patients are qualified to do so.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Judicial Politics Leaves Some Plaintiffs in Limbo

Unfortunately, the Texas judicial system continues to be stacked against injured parties and in favor of negligent people and insurance companies:

A personal tragedy has turned into a very public legal fight for one Texas family. It's a story that may shed some light on weaknesses within the state's judicial system.
Imagine not being able to remember where you were sitting at a restaurant after a simple trip to the restroom. That’s the life Michelle Gaines leads today. A traumatic brain injury suffered in a devastating car wreck in 2006 robbed her of a healthy mind. Then, a jury in her community awarded her $8 million, before a court of appeals overturned it. Now, the Texas Supreme Court is refusing to hear the case.