Friday, April 30, 2004

U of Wash update.

One interesting aspect of the qui tam case, the settlement of which was announced this morning, is that the "plaintiff" (technically, the qui tam relator) was their former compliance officer.

The Seattle Times has updated its story, to reflect the actual settlement announcement this morning.

The complaint, which was filed under seal in 1999 and released today, is here.

Qui tam action against Univ. of Washington teaching hospital settles for $35 million

Assuming the Seattle Times got it right in their article this morning, the pending announcement of a settlement in the False Claims Act suit against them is the final chapter in an appalling tale of lawlessness on the part of a pillar of the Seattle health-care community:[W]hen [a 1996 compliance] program was put into place, auditors found rampant errors. Doctors were routinely overbilling

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Bioethics novels.

Just came across this author profile from the April 18th edition of The Providence Journal. I don't know if Jodi Picoult's books are any good, but I plan to find out this summer. From a bioethics perspective, the most promising appear to be the recently published My Sister's Keeper (producing offspring in order to have a marrow donor for another child), Mercy (euthanasia), and Second Glance (

Monday, April 26, 2004

ER care being triaged at University of Colo. Hosp. in Boulder.

It doesn't seem like much of a story until you read the details. But, acording to a piece in today's Washington Post, hospitals like the University of Colorado Hospital are no longer providing unreimbursed nonemergency care through their ER. The change is potentially enormous.

To begin with: "As the provider of last resort, hospital emergency departments across America have for decades

Sunday, April 25, 2004

The New York Times: "Administration Says a `Zone of Autonomy' Justifies Its Secrecy on Energy Task Force"

Couldn't help noticing this headline in today's Times. Too bad this Administration isn't equally eager to protect the "zone of autonomy" when it comes to the decisional choices of pregnant women, dying patients possessing and using medical marijuana pursuant to doctors' orders that are perfectly legal under California law, physicians who prescribe medications for terminally ill patients

Do poets die young(er)?

According to a study published in the Journal of Death Studies, the answer is yes. (See this Reuters article for the full story). Many news sources reported this story with what seemed to me to be unseemly glee, but no matter. Statistically, it's hard to say whether this study proves anything. Correlation, we all know, is not causation. Thus there are many possible explanations for the

Gov. Romney won't let gay outsiders wed in Massachusetts.

It seems the Bay State has a statute that dates back to 1913 prohibiting out-of-state couples from marrying if their marriage would be void in their home state (see the report in this morning's New York Times). Governor Mitt Romney is directing revisions to local marriage forms so that home states can be identified. Meantime, he plans to write to every governor in the country and ask for

Saturday, April 24, 2004

More medical hoax sites on the WWW

I noted earlier (here and here) the masterful fake cloning Web site in connection with (but with no reference to) the new film, Godsend. Turns out this isn't the first one. Another was posted in connection with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Lacuna Inc.). And then there's

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Google Search: cloning

The fake cloning site is well done in a spooky kind of way. And if you type "cloning" into the Google search window, you get a sponsored link to the Godsend Institute website at the top of the page. Considering what's on the web these days, it's hard to get all lathered up over this hoax, but it still bothers me in a vague, undefined way. . . .

Godsend Institute.

If you want to see a movie promotion site that is over the top, but fascinating, check out the site for the new DeNiro move, Godsend.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Infectious disease . . . and the duty to treat: what are the limits?

I recently did a piece for the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal on the duty (and the limits to that duty) of health care professionals to respond to an infectious disease even at a considerable risk to the responder. Today's N.Y. Times Magazine has an article that does a nice job of the epidemiology and the ethics issues related to it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Health care and IT.

Steve Pearlstein has a good piece in today's Washington Post on the failure, so far, of the health care sector to jump on the information-technology bandwagon (resulting in much waste and worse: avoidable death and injury). His analysis of the problem seems right on the money:So why has health care almost uniquely failed to invest in IT? First, the industry remains fragmented, with few entities

Saturday, April 10, 2004

HR 3108 signed into law

As stated by the White House Press Secretary, the President signed into law the pension law discussed here earlier today and yesterday, which includes the provision that purports to -- but may not quite -- kill the antitrust challenge to the resident match program.

April 10, 2004
STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARYOn Saturday, April 10, 2004, the President signed into law:
H.R. 3108, the '

Parkland's not the only one . . . .

According to a story in today's N.Y. Times, the Westchester County government has created a committee to monitor the public county hospital's weak finances. Though the losses appear to be much greater in Westchester than in Dallas, the political rhetoric is familiar:The new "financial improvement committee" will give county officials greater power and control over the beleaguered medical center,

More on the pension bill that may kill the antitrust challenge to The Match.

AP has picked up the story that first appeared yesterday in Modern Healthcare. There seems to be some confusion as to whether the about-to-become-public-law would actually apply to the pending lawsuit, in light of its statement that "Nothing in this section shall be construed to exempt from the antitrust laws any agreement on the part of 2 or more graduate medical education programs to fix the

Friday, April 9, 2004

Antitrust challenge to the residency match may be about to bite the dust.

Modern Healthcare is reporting that a Conference Committee-added provision of "the Pension Funding Equity Act [H.R. 3108] could end a 2-year-old antitrust challenge of the National Resident Matching Program. . . . President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law next week."

The law was passed by Congress on Thursday. The last-minute provision -- Section 207 -- exempts residency matching

More on drugs: Reimportation.

Chuck Grassley can be a royal pain sometimes, but this time the Republican Senator from Iowa, may have done something useful. Yesterday, he introduced S. 2307, a bill entitled, "Reliable Entry for Medicines at Everyday Discounts through Importation with Effective Safeguards Act of 2004." I thought this title confirmed that weird bill names have hit an all-time high (or low) until I read his

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Drug costs redux.

Who knows? Maybe drug costs will be the leading edge of a health-care reform movement that drags the country, kicking and screaming, into universal coverage (maybe single-payer, but probably not). Lord knows we are working overtime trying to figure out how to make drugs affordable, or it least make it look as though we are trying to make drugs affordable.

The Medicare reform law last fall [

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Been down so long, it looks like up to me.

I'm not sure where the time goes sometimes, and it comes as a bit of shock that I haven't posted to this space in well over a week. The fact is, these puppies take some time to put together, and the last few weeks have been chockablock with writing and speechifying. Not that I expect any sympathy . . .

Since I've been gone:DHHS' OIG has issued its long (long, long) awaited final Stark II,