Sunday, January 24, 2010

Irradiated. Again.

This New York Times article profiles two cases, at two different hospitals, of patients being exposed to large, unsafe doses radiation while administering CT scans. According to the NY Times, "Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles disclosed that it had mistakenly administered up to eight times the normal radiation dose to 206 possible stroke victims over an 18-month period during a procedure intended to get clearer images of the brain."

Click the above link to get the full story from the NY Times.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I just finished reading this New York Times piece which brings attention to the many radiation therapy errors that have occurred in New York state, as well as several other states, over the past decade. The mistakes seem occur despite, and maybe even partly because of, more advanced and complicated software. Though, the word "negligence" never appeared in the article, the errors in the patient treatment plans could have been caught if the radiation therapist teams had been more vigilant, tested their equipment before use, and more closely monitored the information on their computer screens, before or during the course of treatment. Some of the deadly doses of radiation administered in New York hospitals were given just weeks after the state had sent letters to the hospitals reminding them that, "Staffing levels should be evaluated carefully by each registrant to ensure that coverage is sufficient to prevent the occurrence of treatment errors and misadministrations."

Here are just two examples among many that illustrate the severity of radiation errors: In June, The Times reported that a Philadelphia hospital gave the wrong radiation dose to more than 90 patients with prostate cancer — and then kept quiet about it.In 2005, a Florida hospital disclosed that 77 brain cancer patients had received 50 percent more radiation than prescribed because one of the most powerful — and supposedly precise — linear accelerators had been programmed incorrectly for nearly a year."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Illinois passes law that requires hospitals to adjust bills of uninsured patients

This is awesome. As many of you probably don't know, most hospitals have Byzantine payment systems. For example, Mary, who is uninsured, goes to have her cholesterol levels checked at the local hospital. She is charged $250. Lucy, who is insured, also has her cholesterol levels checked at the same local hospital. She is billed $250. But then her insurance company tells the hospital "No you can't charge Lucy that much. That's above the 'allowed amount'. Instead, the hospital only asks Lucy to pay $100. So, the uninsured woman pays $250 out-of-pocket, the insured woman pays $100 out-of-pocket, the insurance company pays nothing, and the hospital profits greatly off of the uninsured woman.

In most industries this would be called price discrimination and would be considered illegal, but not in the health care industry. So, the uninsured, often the least able to pay, have to pay more out-of-pocket as individuals.

Well, at least in Illinois there is some relief. According to the Wall Street Journal Hospitals can now only charge the uninsured cost plus 35%. Not exactly a great deal, but it is something. Usually hospitals charge patients cost plus 150% and they accept as payment cost plus 2% from Medicare and cost plus 10%-15% from insurance companies and their policy holders.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"one less [efficacy] statistic"

I came across an article in the New York Times, which reviews the rush to mandate Gardasil, the vaccine against HPV, and the the fact that the longevity of immunity provided by this costly vaccine has yet to be proven.

I had read about the strange side effects of the vaccine, which range from fainting, to paralysis, to death, in obscure blogs for over a year, but this is the first mainstream news article I have seen that gives voice to skeptics of Gardasil.

The article questions the reason for the expedited application process and eventual approval of the vaccine by the CDC, which took only six months from start to finish. According to the NY Times, this process takes about three years for other vaccines. Let's just say there are some overt conflicts of interest.

Virginia is the only state to mandate the vaccine as of yet, but many more have legislation in the works. However, some relevant facts should accompany the above statment, "Merck has a growing economic interest in Virginia. In December 2006, Merck announced it would invest $57 million to expand its Elkton, Va., plant to make Gardasil, helped by a $700,000 grant from a state economic development agency that is part of the executive branch. Two months later, Gov. Tim Kaine, who has been mentioned as a possible Democratic vice presidential candidate, signed legislation requiring Gardasil for schoolgirls. Four months after that, Merck pledged to invest $193 million more in the plant to make drugs and vaccines, helped by a state grant of $1.5 million."

Why should this vaccine be mandated at all? HPV is not infectious, like the flu or other deadly disease for which the public is vaccinated against. If someone who has it sneezes on you, you won't catch it. So, why should every prepubescent girl be required to get the vaccine in order to attend school?

Doctors were also paid $4,500 by Merck, to give an hour long presentation about the vaccine and its benefits, which health-wise are uncertain and economically non-existent. You see, because the vaccines are so expensive and cervical cancer is already often caught and treated successfully, because of yearly pap smears given to most women, the "benefits" just aren't worth the cost, according to some health economists.

Meanwhile, our government will spend millions to get girls vaccinated this year, thus diverting much needed funds away from other necessary, proven, preventive care.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

bad fat, bad medicene, bad news

In this article by the New York Times, the effectiveness of cholesterol-lowering medications is called into question by prominent cardiologists. Cholesterol-lowering drugs are the largest category of prescription medication with annual sales of $40 billion.

Eating oatmeal and exercising, in my unhumble opinion, is probably safer and more effective than these relatively poorly vetted drugs.

Monday, July 14, 2008

things are moving and shaking

My letter to the editor of Boise Weekly was published on July 9 and on July 13th the Idaho Statesman did an article on where the profits of the not-for-profits of the Treasure Valley go. I like to think My letter was the inspiration, but either way there is dialog about what should be expected of not-for-profit hospitals and questions about their generous mark ups on services rendered. Its sort of a split article. The article is pretty defensive of St. Luke's and St. Al's, but there is a box of additional information to the side of the main article, which contains some pretty incriminating stats and great links.

I especially found the link to very informative and HELPFUL. The website is run by the Fairness Foundation and provides free information about every hospital in the United States and how much each individual hospital marks up the bill from its actual costs. The website provides tools for negotiating fair prices for the uninsured and under-insured, since they are often charged at least 2.5 times more than the insurance companies and the insured for the very same procedure. Righteous site, indeed.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


My editorial about St.Luke's was published in the Boise Weekly. You can check it out below or read the perfectly punctuated version by clicking on the link above.