Saturday, March 12, 2005

Think of the Savings 

Why do we need tort reform? Here's a perfect example. Were it not for frivolous lawsuits driving up the already astronomical costs of malpractice insurance, billings for the fraudulent medical procedures described below could have been reduced by thirty, forty, perhaps even fifty percent:
The FBI, working with 12 Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, said Friday they had broken up an elaborate insurance scam in which thousands of patients from 47 states were sent to California to undergo unnecessary surgical and diagnostic procedures, for which doctors filed more than $1 billion in fraudulent insurance claims.

Insurance executives and law enforcement officials said that surgery clinics in Southern California typically paid recruiters $2,000 to $4,000 for each patient who received a medical procedure. The patients, they said, received rewards in the form of cash or discounts on cosmetic surgery.

Daniel M. Martino, acting chief of the health fraud unit at the FBI, said the payments to patients ranged from $200 to $2,000 each.

Martino said the outpatient surgery clinics had billed more than $1.3 billion for services provided as part of the scheme, while insurers and employers had lost $350 million in claims paid to date.
UPDATE (via our revered colleague Avedon Carol): Bedridden nursing home patient goes into shock and dies after being bitten by hundreds of fire ants. The following year, the CEO of Mariner Health Care, Inc., owner of the nursing home, slips an illegal check for $100K to Texans for a Republican Majority. Purpose of the check?

To buy a little face time with Tom DeLay, founder of TRMPAC, so that representatives of the nursing-home industry can tell him about the horrors of frivolous lawsuits.

UPDATE (3/13): As helpful visitor Dexter B.S. points out in comments below, fire ants are on the warpath:
Scientists have documented at least six attacks in nursing homes and as many other attacks in private residences, apartments and hotels over the last decade, said Robin Rockhold, a professor of toxicology and pharmacology at the University of Mississippi Medical School.

In addition to the attacks researchers documented in nursing homes - two each in Florida, Texas and Mississippi - fire ants have also attacked a resident in a state institution in Alabama. At least 4 nursing home residents have died within a week of a fire ant attack . . . .

Nursing home patients who were attacked by the ants had physical or mental ailments that kept them from moving away or shouting for help. The ants are fast-moving, covering about 6 inches of ground in 10 seconds. One nursing home resident was found covered with ants at 4 a.m.; there had been none four hours earlier, and a pest control inspector had not seen any the previous day, the researchers say.

Fire ants are about one-eighth to one-quarter inch long, but inflict a painful sting far out of proportion to their size. It's rare to be stung by a single fire ant. Large numbers will swarm onto the body and then sting almost simultaneously.

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