Civil Rights – N.S.A. Phone Data Collection Illegal

May 7, 2015

nsa, national security agency

For more than a decade this unconstitutional activity has been going on without any breaks. It is about time that the parts of the Patriot Act be given a thorough review by the lawmakers–some of whom voted for it in the first place without really reviewing it. This is a positive news!

A federal appeals court in New York on Thursday ruled that the once-secret National Security Agency program that is systematically collecting Americans’ phone records in bulk is illegal. The decision comes as a fight in Congress is intensifying over whether to end and replace the program, or to extend it.

In a 97-page ruling, a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a provision of the USA Patriot Act permitting the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect business records deemed relevant to a counterterrorism investigation cannot be legitimately interpreted to permit the systematic bulk collection of domestic calling records.

The ruling was certain to increase the tension that has been building in Congress because the provision of the Patriot Act that has been cited to justify the bulk data collection program will expire in June unless lawmakers pass a bill to extend it.

via N.S.A. Phone Data Collection Illegal, Appeals Court Rules – NYTimes.com.

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Tort Reform – A Busted Myth

March 2, 2015

tort reform definition

Tort Reform: A definition

Most of us who practice tort law on the victim’s side have been saying this for years only to be faced with deaf politician ears who, on behalf of their deep pocketed masters, continued to spew the myth of Tort Reform. It is time to face reality and stop actively hurting the victims of medical negligence and instead focus on ways by which to reduce the numbers of medical malpractice cases by providing incentives to medical providers to engage in safe and negligent free medical treatment.

The second greatest trick may be the insurance industry’s success in getting more than half the states to implement “tort reform.” That achievement was based on the promise that restricting victims’ ability to bring medical malpractice suits would improve healthcare and reduce its cost. Those myths have now been completely dispelled.

The last bubble to burst was that because doctors are fearful of getting sued, they practice “defensive medicine,” prescribing unnecessary and costly tests and procedures. That myth was dispatched by the recent publication of a major study in the New England Journal of Medicine. A team of five doctors and public health experts found that tort reform measures passed in three states – specifically designed to insulate emergency room doctors from lawsuits — did nothing to reduce the number of expensive tests and procedures those ER doctors prescribed.

This latest study follows numerous others that deflated other tort reform myths: that making it harder for victims to file medical malpractice lawsuits would reduce the number of “frivolous” suits that “clog the courts;” that imposing caps on the damages victims could receive would reign in “out of control” juries that were awarding lottery-size sums to plaintiffs; and that malpractice insurance premiums would fall, thereby reversing a doctor shortage caused by specialists “fleeing the profession.”

via On Tort Reform, It’s Time to Declare Victory and Withdraw – Forbes.

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Fraud & Diagnosis – Is Your Dentist Ripping You Off? – Dental Malpractice

October 6, 2014

DentistMy office has represented several patients in the past who have been victims of various nefarious activity by their dentist. One I remember was when the doctor supplied his patients with credit card applications to complete and pay for the sort of creative diagnosis he would come up with. In one instance, he even forged the signature of my client on one such application. When my client objected, the dentist filed a lawsuit against my client who then came and saw me. My office vigorously defendant the dentist’s lawsuit which ended up not only be dismissed but resulted in a settlement where the dentist ended up paying my client. Unfortunately, I see this sort of behavior by dentists is not very uncommon.

The article, by longtime pediatric dentist Jeffrey Camm, described a disturbing trend he called “creative diagnosis”—the peddling of unnecessary treatments. William van Dyk, a Northern California dentist of 41 years, saw Camm’s op-ed and wrote in: “I especially love the patients that come in for second opinions after the previous dentist found multiple thousands of dollars in necessary treatment where nothing had been found six months earlier. And, when we look, there is nothing to diagnose.”

“In recent years, I have been seeing more and more creative diagnosis,” Camm told me when I called him at his practice in Washington state. A dentist, he said, might think, “‘Well, the insurance covers this crown, so I’m not hurting this patient, so why don’t I just do it?’ That’s the absolutely wrong approach.”

Poking around, I found plenty of services catering to dentists hoping to increase their incomes. One lecturer at a privately operated seminar called The Profitable Dentist $389 aimed to help “dentists to reignite their passion for dentistry while increasing their profit and time away from the office.” Even the ADA’s 2014 annual conference offered tips for maximizing revenue: “Taking time to help our patients want what we know they need,” notes one session description, “can drive the economic and reward engine of our practice.”

via Is Your Dentist Ripping You Off? | Mother Jones.

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Tort Reform – Study Shows Savings Are Mythical

September 22, 2014

Tort Reform

Tort Reform

The idea that Tort Reform was going to have any effect on the cost of American Health Care system has been shown time and time again to be nothing but a myth. Tort Reform has been, and continues to be an effort to prevent victims of medical negligence to seek reasonable compensation for their injuries and the cost of dealing with those injuries in the past, present and more importantly the future. It stands to reason that the Insurance Industry gains but limiting recoveries and even reducing verdicts–never mind that a verdict in favor of a plaintiff is by definition evidence that the case just tried was not frivolous!–after a jury has deliberated on the evidence presented.

Tort reform,” which is usually billed as the answer to “frivolous malpractice lawsuits,” has been a central plank in the Republican program for healthcare reform for decades.

The notion has lived on despite copious evidence that that the so-called defensive medicine practiced by doctors merely to stave off lawsuits accounts for, at best, 2% to 3% of U.S. healthcare costs. As for “frivolous lawsuits,” they’re a problem that exists mostly in the minds of conservatives and the medical establishment.

A new study led by Michael B. Rothberg of the Cleveland Clinic and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association aimed to measure how much defensive medicine there is, really, and how much it costs. The researchers’ conclusion is that defensive medicine accounts for about 2.9% of healthcare spending. In other words, out of the estimated $2.7-trillion U.S. healthcare bill, defensive medicine accounts for $78 billion.

As Aaron Carroll observes at the AcademyHealth blog, $78 billion is “not chump change … but it’s still a very small component of overall health care spending.” Any “tort reform” stringent enough to make that go away would likely create other costs, such as a rise in medical mistakes generated by the elimination of the oversight exercised by the court system.

Since it doesn’t appear that “tort reform” would have any effect on this spending, Carroll says, “there seems little reason to pursue it as a means to dramatically reduce health care spending in the United States.”

via New study shows that the savings from ‘tort reform’ are mythical – LA Times.

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Insurance – U.S. Ranks Last Among High-Income Nations on Preventable Deaths

December 9, 2011

There is something disconcerting about the finding that the United States is last amongst comparable Nations when it comes to preventable deaths. That is, all other wealthy Nations do better than us when it comes to providing proper healthcare and treatment to those whose death could be potentially prevented by timely and effective treatment. This should be of concern!

sThe United States placed last among 16 high-income, industrialized nations when it comes to deaths that could potentially have been prevented by timely access to effective health care, according to a Commonwealth Fund–supported study that appeared online in the journal Health Policy this week and will be available in print on October 25th as part of the November issue. According to the study, other nations lowered their preventable death rates an average of 31 percent between 1997–98 and 2006–07, while the U.S. rate declined by only 20 percent, from 120 to 96 per 100,000. At the end of the decade, the preventable mortality rate in the U.S. was almost twice that in France, which had the lowest rate—55 per 100,000.

Preventable Death In “Variations in Amenable Mortality—Trends in 16 High Income Nations,” Ellen Nolte of RAND Europe and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analyzed deaths that occurred before age 75 from causes like treatable cancer, diabetes, childhood infections/respiratory diseases, and complications from surgeries. They found that an average 41 percent drop in death rates from ischemic heart disease was the primary driver of declining preventable deaths, and they estimate that if the U.S. could improve its preventable death rate to match that of the three best-performing countries—France, Australia, and Italy—84,000 fewer people would have died each year by the end of the period studied.

via Healthcare-NOW! – U.S. Ranks Last Among High-Income Nations on Preventable Deaths.

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Insurance – Healthcare – New Study Shows Health Insurance Premium Spikes in Every State

December 6, 2011

Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance have risen faster than incomes in every state in the nation, according to a report released Thursday.

The analysis of federal data by the Commonwealth Fund, an independent research organization, shed new light on the state-by-state picture while essentially confirming a national trend, highlighted in other recent surveys of employer-sponsored insurance, of greater premiums for skimpier benefits.

The District of Columbia had the highest annual total premiums, including both the employer’s and the worker’s share. In 2010, they averaged $5,644 for a single policy and $15,206 for a family version — a rise of 51 percent and 41 percent, respectively, since 2003.

But the costs were significant even in states with some of the lowest average rates, such as Alabama, where a single policy averaged $4,571 in total premiums and a family version reached $12,409. Maryland and Virginia were roughly in the middle of the pack.

“Although employees typically don’t see the total cost of their insurance, the sharp increase, in effect, means lower wages and salaries as employers make the trade-off between increasing wages and offering insurance,” said Cathy Schoen, a co-author of the study.

via New study shows health insurance premium spikes in every state – The Washington Post.

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Time To End Anti-Trust Exemption For the Insurance Industry

December 14, 2009

Sen. Leahy on Taking Away Insurance Cos. Anti-trust Exemption; Wants Public Option
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPnMaO6-ny4]
No one knows why the Insurance Industry has an exemption from the rules of Capitalism to allow the forces of the market to set the price. It is time that Insurance Industry’s exemption from the anti-trust laws.

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Texas Tort Reform Not All That is Cracked Up To Be…

December 9, 2009

We see results like this all the time, yet the mythical Tort Reform as the answer to all ills continues to be proffered to the public by all those who are either miss-informed or are only looking out for the profit and interests of Insurance Industry. I particularly like the Texas results since the idea that all is well in Texas has been publicized–the problem with the publicity given to Texas and its supposed success resulting from the passage of Tort Reform is that it has resulted in less lawsuits–The US Chamber of Commerce seem to be only concerned with that fact–however, the US Chamber of Commerce does not seem to be concerned with the consumers who have been injured not being able to get compensation from the insurance company for their injuries… That concern has been passed along to us the tax payer because if a person who has been handicapped as a result of medical malpractice is not able to work and to support himself, ultimately, it is the tax payer who will be left holding the bag–and that seems to be the MO of the Right Wing and Conservative Movement.

Tort reform not shown to reduce patient premiums or defensive medicine

The health care debate drones on in the Senate. The first words out of the mouth of many conservative legislators against the proposed health legislation are “Tort Reform.” Medical Malpractice Liability Reform has been a poster child for opponents to overall reform.

The theory:
The theory is that if medical malpractice premiums decline for doctors and other providers, those savings will be passed on to patients. It hopes that limitations on liability and reductions in malpractice premiums will translate to physicians dropping the practice of defensive medicine.

The facts:
In fact, more than half of the states have already implemented “tort reform” on the state level. If the Conservative theory holds water, examination of expenditures data should show a positive result.
Texas, in particular, has been cited as a state which has seen drops in malpractice premiums and new doctors moving into the region as “tort reform” has taken hold after implementation in 2006.

Documented results on health expenditures paid run several years in arrears, but according to analysts at the Department of Health and Human Services, it would be expected they run parallel to more readily available Medicare usage statistics. Seven of the top twenty most costly metropolitan areas to get health care are in Texas.

Nineteen most expensive Medicare areas have tort reform:
The nineteen most expensive Medicare service areas are Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama. In each state, medical malpractice liability reform has passed the state legislature and been signed into law.

Premium variances:
To be fair, there are wide variances in premiums charged by malpractice insurance companies for similar policies in the same medical specialty across the country. These can be as high as 400-500 percent. Certainly, this functions as disincentive for physicians to provide certain services in high premium states. Causation of the variations has more to do with a lack of competition in certain jurisdictions than by specific awards made.

Physicans afraid of litigation
Doctors, in particular, are terrified of being sued. Although higher than average malpractice premiums contribute to this fear, the premiums and awards combined contribute to less than 2 percent of overall medical expense. Malpractice premium relief alone does not seem deter the practice of costly defensive medicine.

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