Friday, January 28, 2005

Bush Offers High-Tech Health Care Prescription

Reuters - President Bush on Thursday proposed increasing federal funds to promote computerized medical records, which he said would save patients' lives and money as he touted plans to overhaul the health care industry.

On the first trip of his second term, Bush said a standardized information technology system for doctors' offices and hospitals would help save lives endangered by poor or incomplete record-keeping, prescription errors and other problems.

He also endorsed enhanced technological efficiency as a means of making health care more affordable for individuals, saying improved procedures for record-keeping and prescriptions could reduce the $1.6 trillion U.S. annual health care bill by up to 20 percent. men solution plus

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A push for better mental health benefits

Austin American-Statesman - A Texas Republican is pushing legislation that would expand mental health benefits currently offered by insurance companies.

The bill, expected to be filed later this week by Rep. Joe Nixon of Houston, would not force businesses to offer mental health coverage. Instead, the bill would increase the types of psychiatric illnesses covered under insurance plans. It would also change limits on the amount of services provided. men solution plus

Monday, January 24, 2005

Bush pushes for limit to medical malpractice awards

British Medical Journal - George Bush has announced that he is to ask Congress to impose strict limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, saying that doctors "should be focused on fighting illnesses, not on fighting lawsuits."

President Bush made his announcement in Madison County, Illinois, which a coalition of business and professional groups recently named as the best place in the United States for plaintiffs to file and win civil lawsuits.

Mr Bush proposed that Congress should set a limit of $250 000 (£134 000; €191 000) for non-economic damages, such as "pain and suffering." The House of Representatives has repeatedly passed bills to limit awards in malpractice cases. The bills have all died in the US Senate, but the newly gained Republican majority, with Senator Bill Frist as its leader, means they could now pass.

The Bush administration likes to cite the high expense of medical malpractice as a factor in ballooning healthcare costs, but a non-partisan analysis by the Congressional Budget Office found that malpractice costs represented less than 2% of healthcare costs in 2002.

Doctors Vanish From View

U.S. News & World Report - Many doctors around the country are similarly frustrated. A 2001 California survey of physicians found that 75 percent of respondents grew less satisfied with practicing medicine over the previous five years. A nationwide survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that 87 percent of doctors say the overall morale of the profession has gone down in the past few years, and nearly 60 percent said their own morale had declined.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

China's Malpractice Claims Push Up Insurance

The Standard (China) - Private medical fees are unlikely to rise in the near future, even though doctors face rises of as much as 90 percent in insurance premiums.

Complaints of medical malpractice against private doctors are expected to increase by a quarter this year and that will boost insurance premiums, according to Medical Association member Cheng Chi-man.

Nearly 7,000 private doctors in the SAR buy insurance from a non-profit United Kingdom organisation, the Medical Protection Society (MPS), which has 200,000 members in more than 40 countries.

The society's statistics show that among the 200 complaints of medical malpractice it received in Hong Kong in 2004, about 40 cases involved claims for compensation of more than HK$1 million, and more than a dozen of those cases involved claims exceeding HK$10 million.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Tired docs pose risks for which Rx is simple: Zzzzzz

Rockford Register Star (Editorial) - Doctors say medical malpractice lawsuits are a threat and it’s time to curb them.

The same is true for another problem that doctors don’t speak so openly about: The killer hours worked by medical interns.

Medical interns who work extended shifts have more than double the risk of being in a car crash, compared with when they work fewer hours, a study published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine showed.

But they are more than a danger on the road. Last fall, another study found that doctors made one-third more medical errors when they worked long shifts, as opposed to shorter ones.

Federal law limits the amount of time truckers can be on the road. Flight time for pilots is strictly monitored. Driving while fatigued is a crime in New Jersey if a fatal crash occurs, and four other states are considering laws similar to New Jersey’s.

However, there’s still a belief that doctors must endure extreme sleep deprivation to learn how to make decisions under pressure.

Research has proved how risky that is, and how it puts patients and fellow travelers at risk.

Mammograms' Availability Is Latest Battle in Med-Mal Wars

Daily Business Review - The Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers is sharply criticizing a legislative commission study that recommends fresh restrictions on medical malpractice lawsuits to improve the availability and reduce the cost of mammograms.

The plaintiff bar group complains that the commission report focuses mainly on restricting malpractice lawsuits rather than addressing more important issues limiting women's access to breast cancer tests, such as lack of health coverage. Florida has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country.

Medicare: harder to fix than Social Security?

Bloomberg News - As President George W. Bush and Congress prepare to battle over the future of Social Security, an even bigger, and costlier, problem is already taking shape: Medicare.

A government advisory panel this week recommended some $2.2 billion in one-year savings for the program, which provides health coverage for the elderly and disabled. That pales next to the program's projected shortfall of $21.8 trillion, according to a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. report published last March. Goldman's estimate is more than double the comparable figure for the Social Security retirement program.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Americans see malpractice awards less a problem than health care costs

Associated Press - Most Americans want something to be done about the rising costs of health care and insurance before Congress takes on malpractice lawsuits.
Lowering the price of health care and insurance was the top priority named by respondents to a poll done by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health.

While saying malpractice reform is needed, those taking part didn't view it with the same sense of urgency as the White House has.

President Bush says the lawsuits are a big reason for rising medical bills. But more respondents listed high profits made by drug and insurance companies for the climbing costs.

Still, 60 percent of those questioned say the lawsuits were a very important factor in causing higher health care costs.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Bush Using 'Capital' to Push Malpractice Reform Legislation

Medical Device Daily - President George Bush set out last week to spend some of the "political capital" that he said he had gained with his second-term election by launching a push for caps on medical malpractice awards.

At an event in Collinsville, Illinois, the president told supporters that medical liability reform would lead to lower overall healthcare costs. Characterizing the liability system as "out of control," he called on Congress to act, saying that many of the rising costs for healthcare start in the courtroom rather than the examining room.

"The U.S. Congress needs to pass real medical liability reform this year," Bush said. "And because the system is so unpredictable, there is a constant risk of being hit by a massive jury award. Doctors end up paying tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, to settle claims out of court, even when they know they have done nothing wrong."

Bush acknowledged that medical research requires major investments and that "world-class medical technology is expensive." But he said "junk lawsuits" were changing the way that doctors are practicing medicine.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Drug industry plans release of more study data

New York Times - Faced with pressure from lawmakers and editors of medical journals, four trade groups representing the world's biggest drugmakers said yesterday that their members planned to release more data about clinical drug trials. In a joint statement, the groups said their member companies had committed themselves to disclose more information about drug studies, both when the studies are started and when results are released. The groups included the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association in Washington and organizations in Europe and Japan. The plans, which are voluntary on the companies' part, appear to reflect an effort by the drug industry to defuse the controversy over clinical trials.

U.S. allows hospital subsidy of doctors' insurance

Modern Healthcare - HHS' inspector general's office said in an advisory opinion that it would not prosecute an unnamed hospital for subsidizing two years of medical malpractice insurance coverage for two neurosurgeons. Still, the agency noted that the arrangement could potentially violate laws against paying kickbacks for patient referrals. In a 10-page opinion dated Dec. 30, 2004, Chief Counsel Lewis Morris said the risk was reduced because the arrangement did not discuss or require referrals to the hospital; did not prohibit the physicians from practicing elsewhere; and would not result in a financial windfall for the doctors. Advisory opinions apply only to the specific parties involved and don't constitute legal precedents.

According to the opinion, the neurosurgeons' malpractice carrier informed them that it would not renew their policy and would substantially raise the price of "tail coverage" for potential claims on services already provided. If the doctors retired, tail coverage would be free. The hospital, which had attempted without success to recruit other neurosurgeons to the area, agreed to purchase tail coverage for the physicians and pay 75% of the premium differential between their old policy and a policy with a new carrier. The physicians agreed to continue to practice in the community, serve on hospital committees and accept on-call coverage. -- by Mark Taylor