Monday, February 8, 2010

Illinois medical malpractice caps unconstitutional

Chicago attorney Martin Dolan of Dolan Legal sent this article:

Illinois medical malpractice caps unconstitutional
By CARLA K. JOHNSON AP Medical Writer
February 4, 2010

CHICAGO - A divided Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday that caps on some awards in medical malpractice cases violate the state's Constitution. Trial lawyers and consumer groups applauded the decision to strike down the caps, which limited awards for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering.

Doctors and hospitals expressed disappointment and said the decision highlights the need for President Barack Obama and Congress to embrace medical liability reform as part of health care overhaul legislation.

It was the third time the court rejected caps enacted by state lawmakers.

This time, the justices struck down in its entirety a medical malpractice reform law enacted by the Legislature in 2005. The court said lawmakers could re-enact some of the measure's provisions, just not the caps on what malpractice victims could win in court. The law had limited awards to $500,000 when defendants were doctors and $1 million against hospitals.

It also gave state regulators more power to review and change malpractice insurance rates, investigate complaints and punish bad doctors.

The court said the Legislature's caps violate the separation of powers by infringing on the judiciary. Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald's majority opinion said the court wasn't persuaded by caps in other states...

At a news conference Thursday in Chicago, the family's attorney, Jeffrey Goldberg, distributed a photo of Abigaile Lebron sitting in a wheelchair. He urged lawmakers to remember the victims of medical malpractice...

Obama says he won't give up on Melanie Shouse's dream of health care reform

Obama says he won't give up on Melanie Shouse's dream of health care reform
By Michael Sorkin

Melanie Shouse believed Barack Obama could reform health care, and the St. Louis activist worked hard to help get him to the White House.

She died last Saturday from breast cancer while battling her insurance company to pay for her chemotherapy treatment.

On Thursday night, President Obama cited her case in promising to continue working for health care legislation.

In a speech, Obama spoke of Shouse's death and her obituary in the Post-Dispatch.

"How can I say to her ... 'We're giving up'?" Obama said....

Shouse, 41, of Overland, died after a 41/2-year battle with breast cancer.

Her obituary reported that she waited months to go to a doctor after she began to feel sick in 2005. She explained that she could only afford so-called "catastrophic" health insurance — a policy that required her to pay out $5,000 in deductibles before the insurance kicked in.

Shouse spent the last years of her life advocating that consumers "take on the Big Insurance Monopoly and liberate American families from the slavery of skyrocketing insurance premiums and canceled coverage, which leave millions of us in a state of perpetual fear and insecurity."...

Obama official 'very disturbed' by Anthem Blue Cross rate hikes


Anthem Blue Cross backpedals on raising rates

Anthem to delay insurance rate hike amid criticism
Feb. 13, 2010

Health insurer Anthem Blue Cross will postpone its much-criticized plan to raise rates for some California residents who buy insurance on their own, after reaching a deal Saturday with state regulators.

Anthem's planned rate hike, which the state estimates would affect about 700,000 customers, averaged 25 percent and would have been as high as 39 percent for some.

Anthem Blue Cross of California, based in Thousand Oaks, agreed to postpone the increase from March 1 until May 1 so California could have outside experts review the company's complex and detailed plan filing, including data on the medical costs it expects to incur...

In this Feb. 4, 2010 file photo, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Blue Cross is obviously feeling very powerful. I imagine it will spend the new revenues on campaign ads to defeat universal health care. Hmmm. I'm trying to think of a more arrogant and smug act of contempt for the people who pour their hard-earned money into Blue Cross.

Obama official 'very disturbed' by Anthem Blue Cross rate hikes
By Duke Helfand
LA Times
February 9, 2010

California insurance regulators asked Anthem Blue Cross to delay controversial rate increases of as much as 39% for individual policies, hikes that have triggered widespread criticism from subscribers and brokers -- and now from the federal government.

In a rare step, the Obama administration called on California's largest for-profit insurer to justify its rate hikes, saying the increases were alarming at a time when subscribers face skyrocketing healthcare costs...

HHS secretary asks insurer to justify rate hike

The Associated Press
February 8, 2010

LOS ANGELES -- The Obama administration on Monday asked California's largest for-profit health insurer to justify plans to hike customers' premiums by as much as 39 percent, a move that could affect some 800,000 people.

In a letter to the president of Anthem Blue Cross, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she was disturbed to learn of the planned increases, calling them "extraordinary."...

WellPoint sees profit grow eightfold in fourth quarter

The Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2010

CA Health Insurance Companies Pay Fine for Rescinding Health ...

21 Jan 2010 by admin
The recent legal ruling is a result of a lawsuit against health giant Anthem Blue Cross of California. Prosecutors argued that Anthem violated state law by selling health plan members the promise of health insurance, but then later ... “ This puts new cops on the beat,” said Bryan Liang, director of the Institute of Health Law Studies at California Western School of Law in San Diego. “Lots of stuff in the standard operating practices of health plans is going to be affected ...

Patient Sues Anthem Blue Cross Over Liver Transplant - Consumer ...
7 Oct 2009
Ephram Nehme was gravely ill when Anthem Blue Cross of California agreed to pay for a liver transplant his physician said he needed to survive. Then, his condition went downhill fast. The news from his doctor was bad. ... tremendously important issue because most people aren't savvy enough about how to work this system, and it is totally stacked against them," said Bryan Liang, director of the Institute of Health Law Studies at California Western Law School in San Diego. ...
Consumer Watchdog Updates

Bankers give money to Republicans because they don't want to be "kicked around" anymore since bailout

Bankers don't seem to be feeling any remorse for triggering the biggest financial crisis since the Depression and then getting bailed out by the government. They're not going to take it anymore! Well, they might take more money, but they're not going to put up with regulations and limits on their bonuses.

Wall Street Throwing More Money at Republicans
Feb. 8, 2010

Fed up with name-calling and increased restrictions from the Obama administration, bankers are shifting financial support to Democratic opponents in the Republican party.

Bank officials say Wall Street is sending a message: “The expectation in Washington is that ‘We can kick you around, and you are still going to give us money,’ ” one top official at a major Wall Street firm tells the Times.

“We are not going to play that game anymore.”...

In a Message to Democrats, Wall St. Sends Cash to G.O.P.

New York Times
Published: February 7, 2010

...this year Chase’s political action committee is sending the Democrats a pointed message. While it has contributed to some individual Democrats and state organizations, it has rebuffed solicitations from the national Democratic House and Senate campaign committees. Instead, it gave $30,000 to their Republican counterparts...

She's "tired of hearin' the talk talk talk" but Palin wowed Tea Party Nation Inc. with nastiness for fun and profit

AP/Ed Reinke
Sarah Palin addresses attendees at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010.

Feb 6, 2010 21:07 EST
The pitbull in lipstick is back!
By Joan Walsh

Eric Hoffer didn't live to see Tea Party Nation, but I always think of his most famous quote when I'm forced to deal with it: ""Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."

I'm not sure the Tea Party cause is a great one, but it's an influential one, and it degenerated into a racket lickety split, in less than a year. This weekend's gathering in Nashville splintered both the Tennessee and the national Tea Party movement, as local go-getter Judson Phillips set up the once-anticipated "convention" as his own for-profit business. We'll have a first-hand report from the racket that paid Sarah Palin more than $100,000 to speak Saturday night. But I can't help weighing in.

Wow. This was the Palin we saw at the 2008 Republican convention, the snarling pitbull in shimmery lipstick. I know journalists aren't supposed to use words like mean and dumb, but I can't help it. Palin is one of the meanest people on the public stage today. She wallows in it. She loves it! Also? Possibly one of the dumbest. But mean works, and so does dumb. And so do lies, and there were many mean, dumb lies in her speech.

How rich that she read her talk in a sing-song voice as she ripped Barack Obama for using a Teleprompter. Once she left the speech for the Q&A, she really went off-message, as well as nearly off-English. (Even though it looked like, at one point, she was reading answers off of her hand.)

"They're not knowin what are we gonna do if we don't have Tea Party support" was one of my favorite head-scratchers, a great echo of "when Putin rears his head."

...She told the crowd her husband Todd -- according to recently released emails, the non-elected former governor of Alaska -- is "much too independent" to be a Republican, because he's even "more conservative" than she is. What a great way to revisit the controversy over Todd's membership in the secessionist Alaska Independent Party! Remember how Palin dogged poor McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt, trying to get him to denounce Salon's reporting on the Palins and AIP?

She tried to get Schmidt to lie and say her husband checked the AIP box on voter forms mistakenly, and he refused. Now she's bragging her husband isn't a Republican because he's so "independent."

She lied about rejecting stimulus money for Alaska (apparently she rejected a small home-weatherization project, which as it is sounds kind of mean for the governor of Alaska.)...

Monsanto: The evil corporation in your refrigerator

Monsanto: The evil corporation in your refrigerator
Bob Cesca
Wallet Pop
Feb 4th 2010

When we consider the rogue's gallery of devilish, over-sized, greedy and disproportionately powerful corporations, we generally come up with outfits like Microsoft, Bechtel, AIG, Halliburton, Goldman-Sachs, Exxon-Mobil and the United States Senate.

Yet somehow, Monsanto, arguably the most devilish, over-sized, greedy and disproportionately powerful corporation in the world has been able to more or less skulk between the raindrops -- only a household name in households where documentaries like Food Inc. are regarded as light Friday evening entertainment.

...But for the most part, if you were to ask an average American for their list of sinister corporations, Monsanto probably wouldn't make the cut.

It should.

Founded by Missouri pharmacist John Francis Queeny in 1901, Monsanto is literally everywhere. Just about every non-organic food product available to consumers has some sort of connection with Monsanto.

Anyone who can read a label knows that corn, soy and cotton can be found in just about every American food product. Upwards of 90% of all corn, soybeans and cotton are grown from genetically engineered seeds, also known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These genetically enhanced products appear in around 70% of all American processed food products. And Monsanto controls 90% of all genetically engineered seeds. In other words, Monsanto controls -- and owns patents on -- most of the American food supply.

When you consider, as Walletpop originally reported, that one-in-four food labels is inaccurate, that the F.D.A.'s testing is weak at best, then how can we trust one corporation to have so much control over our produce? The answer is, we can't.

Recently, a study by the International Journal of Biological Sciences revealed that Monsanto's Mon 863, Mon 810, and Roundup herbicide-absorbing NK 603 in corn caused kidney and liver damage in laboratory rats.

Scientists also discovered damage to the heart, spleen, adrenal glands and even the blood of rats that consumed the mutant corn...


Tomato bribery probe just the beginning, prosecutors say

By P.J. Huffstutter
LA Times
February 8, 2010

Amid concerns about corrupt practices in the food industry, nine people have pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering, money laundering and bid-rigging in a federal probe of SK Foods.
To his friends, Randall Lee Rahal was just a food salesman, someone who routinely left his home on Shadyside Road in Ramsey, N.J., to crisscross the country hawking California tomatoes.

The 61-year-old sold them pureed. He sold them crushed. He sold them roasted and mashed into paste. His clients were food manufacturers, supermarket chains and other commercial buyers who turned his products into soup, ketchup and salsa.

But in the eyes of the Justice Department, Rahal was Tomato Enemy No. 1 -- a produce scofflaw who allegedly peeled off $100 bills and carried cash-stuffed envelopes to bribe buyers from leading food companies in a decade-long racketeering scheme that may have led to higher prices for consumers at the grocery store.

In a series of court filings starting in 2008, federal prosecutors in Sacramento allege that Rahal, nine others and SK Foods of Monterey, Calif., used more than $330,000 in bribes from 1998 to 2008 to subvert competition and nail down deals to sell the company's tomato paste, peppers and other products to Kraft Foods Inc., Safeway Inc., Frito-Lay North America and B&G Foods, among others...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ken Lewis, Bank of America Sued by Cuomo for Fraud

Ken Lewis, Bank of America Sued by Cuomo for Fraud
February 04, 2010
By Karen Freifeld and David Scheer

Former Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis was sued by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for defrauding investors and the government when buying Merrill Lynch & Co. The bank agreed to pay $150 million to settle a related lawsuit by U.S. regulators.

Cuomo also sued the bank’s former chief financial officer Joe Price and the bank itself for not disclosing about $16 billion in losses Merrill had incurred before it was bought by Bank of America in an effort to get the merger approved. Afterwards, Lewis demanded government bailout funds, Cuomo said.

“We believe the bank management understated the Merrill Lynch losses to shareholders, then they overstated their ability to terminate their agreement to secure $20 billion of TARP money, and that is just a fraud,” Cuomo said today at a press conference. “Bank of America and its officials defrauded the government and the taxpayers at a very difficult time.”

Cuomo is pursuing individuals at the bank while the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has declined to do so. The suit is being filed under the Martin Act, a New York securities law that permits both civil and criminal penalties...