How To Fight High Medical Bills

Whether insured or uninsured, you likely have received a medical bill that has shocked you.   You feel blind-sided and want answers.  Yet, you cannot readily find them.  You are given just a summary statement of what number “you owe” or else you will be sent to collections.  You are not alone in your agony over medical bills, but you are alone in the fight.  Unless you are at the poverty-level and get Medicaid or Medicare coverage, then you will have to fight to preserve your financial independence from egregious medical bills.  A good place to start is to read this 5-Step Guide on How To Negotiate Your Medical Bills:

[Read more…]

How To Calculate Your Health Insurance Premium Under Obama Care

obamacareIn less than three months, Obama Care takes effect.  What does this mean for you?

It may mean an increase in a premium, a decrease, or a penalty if you refuse to purchase insurance.

You may recall that the intention of Obama Care was to federally mandate every individual to pay into a national health care network so as to increase the access to affordable health care for every individual residing in, or is a citizen of, the United States.

This all sounds, good, but the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Plan (“ACA” also known as Obama Care) led to a heated political debate.  Many said this was a socialist campaign where the hard-working would end up paying for the non-contributing members of society.  The ACA is a daunting nearly 1,000 pages long.

Supreme Court Upholds Law Because of the “Tax”

The debate over the constitutionality of requiring individuals to purchase insurance was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”).  SCOTUS upheld Obama Care under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.   It was found that imposing a “tax” on individuals and employers of 50+ employees who neglect to buy insurance is within the power of the federal government.

The penalty for individuals ranges from $95-$750 per year; for employers, it may be up to $2,000/employee per year.

Some small businesses said they will reduce their staff or employees’ hours to avoid the insurance requirement or penalty.  The federal government announced earlier this month that it will postpone the enactment of the employer penalty by a year.

[Read more…]

Are Your Medical Records Confidential?

When patients go the doctor, most think their personal information, medical history, ailments and test results are confidential. Most reasonably think it is all protected under the physician-patient privilege and Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPPA). Unfortunately, with the prevalent use of technology and health information, there are more incidents of HIPPA breaches.

Electronic medical records (EMR), also known as electronic health records (EHR) are becoming the standard for Swedish, Providence, Virginia Mason, University of Washington Medicine and MultiCare, to name a few regional medical clinics and hospitals. With this technology creating and storing your health information, you should be aware of the safety precautions used to maintain the confidentiality of the information.

Even with technology, human error is possible. In most breaches, information is misplaced, stolen or lost because of simple “human error and human nature,” said Susan McAndrew, deputy director for health information privacy in theU.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.

Most cases involve a hard drive containing personal information being stolen. The Chicago Tribune reported :

[Read more…]

Hip Implants Injuring Thousands, FDA Reports

A sports related injury, age or poor genes are all reasons why hundreds of thousands of Americans are receiving hip replacements. The average metal hip replacement should last 15 years without problem. Yet, since January 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received over 5,000 complaints of defective metal hip replacements. The number of complaints is more than the number of complaints received by the FDA in the past four years, combined. Thankfully, most complaints are not life-threatening. The injuries typically involve from crippling injuries caused by small particles of cobalt and chromium shed from the metal devices.

Approximately 250,000 individuals receive hip replacements annually, 1/3 a total hip replacement. An all-metal hip replacement is where both the artificial ball and cup (hip socket) are made of metal.

Some experts fear that these all-metal replacement hips may become the biggest and most expensive implant recall since Medtronic’s recall in 2007 of its popular heart device component. About 7,700 complaints have been filed in connection with that recall.

Johnson & Johnson’s Articular Surface Replacement (“ASR”) hip implants, the “Depuy” were recalled in 2010. Since the Depuy Hip Implant recall, Johnson & Johnson is strategizing how to minimize its liability.

The New York Times offers a lot of helpful information, media and links to additional information on hip replacements and the Johnson & Johnson recall.

 

If you, or a family member or friend are considering a partial or full hip replacement, ask your physician questions on the product that will be implanted. Do your research. If you, or someone you know, has undergone an implant surgery and is experiencing pain, squeaking that won’t go away, or rashes, then there may be a defective metal implant.

Copyright 2011 The Filutowski Law Firm, PLLC. Disclaimer: This page is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. An attorney-client relationship is not created or continued.

FDA Loosely Regulates Medical Devices

Today the Wall Street Journal reports on the results of a clinical stent-graft study that highlights a gap in federal regulators’ oversight of medical devices. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspects medical device makers’ sites when they apply for marketing approval, the agency does not conduct inspections at the earlier clinical-trial stage. Doctors say the result is hundreds of participants in clinical-trial studies of medical devices could be at risk of receiving faulty devices.

The WSJ article focused on a study on avoid aortic-aneurysm treatment, where participants received a stent-graft created by Aptus Endosystems Inc. An unusually high percentage of the participants developed blood clots in their legs or in the devices, which in several cases required emergency surgery or placement of a stent, doctors involved in the study said. These doctors and the company said the problem with the device wasn’t its design but defects in the way it was manufactured. The FDA didn’t inspect or audit the plant where the devices were made before they were placed in the aortas of more than 175 study participants, according to information from Aptus and from presentations at medical conferences.

[Read more…]

Pfizer Lobbying Cost Shareholders $4 million In 3Q

The AP (11/19) reports, “Pfizer, Inc., the world’s biggest drugmaker, spent just under $4.2 million lobbying Congress and federal agencies in the third quarter, focusing on a range of pharmaceutical and healthcare industry issues, according to a recent filing.” Notably, “during the third quarter, it reduced spending by 23 percent from about $5.4 million during the same period a year prior, when the industry had a heavy focus on healthcare reform proposals,” although “spending is up 84 percent from just under $2.3 million during the second quarter of this year.”

Source: American Association for Justice.

Electronic Medical Records Pose Risk of Tampering

Yesterday The Baltimore Sun reported on privacy issues with digitalizing patients’ medical records. The article raises valid concerns about the risks associated with digitizing patients’ medical records. While paperless increases the efficiencies in transferring, updating and sharing a patient’s information, it also provides opportunities for insurance companies to alter records to avoid responsibility for coverage and payment.

As efforts to implement electronic medical records escalate, so do the debate about patient privacy and the potential for commercial exploitation of the technology.

Computerized files are seen as a way to improve care and save tens of billions of dollars in health costs, but doctors and advocacy groups have raised concerns about the risks of exposing detailed personal health information. In particular, doctors worry that insurance and drug companies could manipulate the records to affect decisions on patient treatment.

MedChi, which represents more than 22,000 Maryland physicians, recently announced that it was the first medical society in the nation to pass a resolution calling for state-level legislation to ensure that doctors retain responsibility for treatment decisions and that medical records are made available on a neutral platform that does not advance any commercial interests.

“As we implement the system, we want to make sure the data remains the patient’s data and is private,” said Gene Ransom, MedChi’s chief executive officer.

The establishment of electronic medical records is a major part of national health care reform. The Obama administration set aside nearly $19 billion in stimulus money to establish electronic records for all Americans by 2014. The records would include a patient’s history as well as guidelines and the latest medical research and treatments for diseases.

[Read more…]

Pfizer Liabilities Continue to Grow

pfizer-bextra-lawsuit

Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP today announced that a class action has been commenced in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of shareholders of Pfizer Inc. Pfizer is a pharmaceutical company engaged in the discovery, development, manufacture, and marketing of prescription medicines for humans and animals worldwide. The lawsuit announced today alleges that Pfizer misled investors by failing to disclose that they were engaged in an ongoing course of conduct designed to illegally promote the sale of Pfizer drugs, including Bextra, Geodon, Zyvox and Lyrica. By such conduct, Pfizercaused hundreds of millions of dollars in false or fraudulent claims to be submitted to several federal healthcare programs, thus exposing the Company to untold legal liability.

[Read more…]

New Law Protects Employees From Discriminatory Genetic Testing

The Genetic Information Non Discrimination Act (GINA) will take effect this weekend. It shields employees from genetic testing requested by employers and group health insurers. Historically, employers and their health insurers have used genetic testing as a means of “weeding out” those with “bad genes,” whether by disputing coverage or cleverly drafting policies to exclude coverage for those conditions one is genetically predisposed to. Such testing has been done for employees that have developed the common workplace injury: carpal tunnel syndrome. One woman was fired for announcing she was being tested for breast cancer.

Employers and group insurers have narrowly viewed any employee with a genetic predisposition as a liability, and no longer a producing asset.

This will soon cease, as GINA will protect employees at places of employment with 15 or more employees.

74 Lawsuits Allege Serious Injuries From Bayer Drug’s Yaz & Yasmin Birth Control Pills

Bayer, the U.S.’s leading manufacturer of birth control pills, sold Yaz and Yasmin to millions of women, some of whom have experienced heart attacks, blood clots and strokes. These women have filed individual lawsuits around the nation, claiming that the pills caused such harm.

While blood clots are a known side-effect of oral contraceptives, the severity of blood clots appears to be uniquely serious to those women taking Yaz and Yasmin.

A young Swiss women, who took Yaz for only 10 months, died of a pulmonary embolism. Another young women, only 16 years-old, is disabled from a lung embolism. Swiss health regulators are investigating the drug and individual cases.

In the United States, an injured party may sue for product liability under a few theories: 1) defective design (insufficient Research & Development), 2) defective manufacturing (insufficient Quality Control), or 3) inadequate warning. In the case of the 74 lawsuits, all three claims plus Consumer Protection Act claims may be alleged. While blood clots area known risk of taking an oral contraceptive – severe blood clots leading to death – is not.