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Just before Christmas, Congress voted to temporarily keep funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the federally and state funded insurance program for 8.9 million children in the United States. Children enrolled in CHIP have families that earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid, but do not have the ability to obtain private insurance. Insurance under CHIP is either free or available at a reduced cost.

States are responsible for the administration of CHIP, using state funds in conjunction with federal dollars and are able to operate the program either separate from or as an extension of Medicaid. Without adequate federal funding, however, CHIP would not be able to support all children in need.

With the December 21st vote by Congress to allocate $2.85 billion to CHIP, the program should be safe until March of this new year. When states were notified of the extension of the program, they breathed a sigh of relief knowing they wouldn’t have to send out letters over Christmas notifying needy families that their health insurance would be cut. Even with the extension, it doesn’t guarantee that every state will have enough to keep everyone enrolled until March. As part of the agreement, Congress also authorized the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to grant more funds to the neediest states.

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A yearlong investigation by ProPublica and NPR has revealed that in addition to the U.S. having the highest rate of maternal death of any industrialized country, black women are 243% more likely than whites or hispanics to die during pregnancy, childbirth or the postpartum period.

Why are Mothers Dying During Pregnancy and Childbirth?

For women of all ethnic backgrounds, data from the CDC shows that the rate of severe complications related to childbirth more than doubled between 1993-2014. The ProPublica/NPR investigation points to a variety of factors contributing to the increase in the maternal death rate; chief among them are increases in the average age and weight of pregnant women. Factors such as age and weight mean a greater likelihood of diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension). The report also cites a 2008-2012 study of women in New York hospitals that found that women with “severe pre-existing conditions were three times as likely as other new mothers to experience life-threatening impacts of childbirth.” If anything, the knowledge of the increasing rate of maternal deaths due to age and weight should urge healthcare providers to practice precaution over a more laid back approach to addressing complaints and even borderline abnormal symptoms in pregnant and postpartum women.

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A recent study by CNA Financial has found that Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are at the heart of more malpractice lawsuits than in years prior. The insurance firm, along with the Nurses Service Organization, analyzed 287 closed liability cases against NPs, NP practices, and NP students between 2012-2016 in excess of $10,000 (referred to as an indemnity payment). This data was compared to a 2007-2011 report of 200 closed cases with the same indemnity payment amount.

MedPage Today, a online resource for medical news and trends, notes that the most recent study found that:

  • NPs in 4 specialty areas paid the most claims:
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A well-known downtown Chicago surgical center, Gold Coast Surgicenter, is being sued by a male patient who claims an anesthesiologist negligently administered anesthetic agents, causing him to suffer cardiac arrest that caused brain damage. According to the filing, as a result of improper monitoring during a routine outpatient surgery to repair the patient’s knuckle, the patient suffered from ‘hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy and other irreversible neurologic brain damage and injury.’

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) can occur when the brain has endured a period of time with either reduced oxygen to the brain or reduced oxygen in the blood. This diminished or fully restricted flow of oxygen to the brain causes serious brain damage. HIE is most frequently noted in birth injury cases of cerebral palsy. In adults, HIE is a concern during and after cardiac arrest.

Facility Lacked Standardized Policies and Procedures for Patient Monitoring and Resuscitation

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Earlier this fall, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic to be a national public health emergency, making combatting it a priority for the federal government and states that have been hardest hit. In response to President Trump’s announcement, the Food & Drug Administration has begun eyeing strategies that would cut back on access to the drugs, how they are dispensed, and how to treat those who have become addicted. Opioids, a narcotic, are a class of pain-relieving drugs that affect the central nervous system and are derived from opium. Commonly known opioids include heroin, fentanyl, morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Norco are some brand name opioids that are frequently used to treat everything from dental pain to post-surgical pain, as well as a variety of other pain-inducing conditions in between.

2015 data from the CDC shows that 52,000 people died from an opioid overdose that year and that more than half of those deaths were caused by a legally prescribed or illegally obtained prescription medication.

New Rules Likely to Upset Drug Companies and Consumers

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We are proud to announce that Levin & Perconti’s Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog has won The Expert Institute’s Annual 2017 Best Legal Blog Contest for MedMal/Personal Injury, receiving over 1700 votes and besting blogs from across the country, including those based in New York, Texas, and California.

The blog, focused on communicating news and important information on issues relating to the health and safety of patients and the public, also extensively covers legislation that would affect the right to sue for preventable medical mistakes, the third leading cause of death in this country. With utmost respect for the medical community and the practice of medicine, the blog also aims to highlight the difference between sound medical care and negligent providers who fail to follow the standard of care.

About Levin & Perconti 

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The family of a 70 year old wife and mother was recently awarded $10 million after a Columbia, South Carolina jury found the urologist who failed to treat her liable for her death.

Life-Saving Information Not Shared with Patient

The woman, Joann Bannister, was being monitored by her primary care physician, Dr. Jerry Robinson, for a growth on her left kidney. After a 2011 visit with Dr. Phillip Kinder, a urologist with Columbia Urological Associates, she was told by her primary care doctor that the growth would potentially lead to removal of her kidney, but he put off immediate treatment and requested that she schedule another appointment in 6 months. 4 months later, Mrs. Bannister was back in Dr. Robinson’s office, this time complaining of lower back pain. Dr. Robinson sent her for a CT scan that revealed the kidney growth had gotten larger. The radiologist who reviewed the CT scan advised removal of the growth to test it for cancer, but for unknown reasons, Dr. Kinder, her urologist, never communicated this information to her.

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Ratings from the annual Hospital Safety Grade Report from Leapfrog Group are now available and 15 Illinois hospitals have lost their ‘A’ rating since last year. This year, Illinois has 30 hospitals who received an A, down from 45 just last year. The Hospital Safety Grade Report “scores hospitals on how safe they keep their patients from errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.” According to the Leapfrog Group, the focus is to bring patient safety information to the public and reduce the number of hospital mistakes and injuries, incidents that are responsible for 440,000 deaths each year.

Data is collected from hospital surveys, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and secondary sources, including the American Hospital Association’s Annual Survey. In all, 27 different patient safety measures are evaluated, the data is weighted and then each hospital is given a rating (A-F). It is important to note that free standing pediatric hospitals, long term care facilities, and specialty centers (such as cancer treatment hospitals) are not included in Leapfrog’s annual Hospital Safety Grade Report.

Of the 27 measures, 12 related to Process and Structural Measures (everything from ‘Hand Hygiene’ to ‘Identification and Mitigation of Risks and Hazards’) and 15 related to Outcome Measures (from MRSA and CDiff infections, all the way to death during surgery). To view the 27 measures, please click here.

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This past Tuesday night in Chicago, blogger and author Glennon Doyle (formerly Glennon Doyle Melton) joined forces with a panel of other equally insightful and inspiring women to talk about finding your own self worth and harnessing that power to live your best life. We were lucky enough to be in the audience and hear the many roles these women have taken on in their lives: daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, career women, and caregivers. In her New York Times bestselling book Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle wrote “My courage will come from knowing I can handle whatever I encounter there — because I was designed by my creator to not only survive pain and love but also to become whole inside it. I was born to do this. I am a Warrior.”

Women ARE warriors. For many women, our role as a nurturer and caregiver spans the full cycle of life, from the births of our children all the way to caring for our aging parents. Caring for another person is unlike any other job in the world. The weight of responsibility, the emotional highs and lows, the physical stress and exhaustion, and the strain on other relationships that being a caregiver imposes on a woman is demanding and isolating. Adding in maintaining a marriage or partnership, looking after our own health, and holding down a job while attempting to care for another human life, whether infant or elder, is more than just a feat. It’s superhuman.

Women as Caregivers for Aging Parents

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“We’re not in a crisis. We’re definitely not in a crisis.”

An annual survey by Medical Liability Monitor (MLM) found that medical malpractice premiums rates have fallen 1.1%, the 10th consecutive year of lower rates in obstetrics & gynecology, general surgery, and general internal medicine, three areas of medicine said to be indicative of the industry as a whole.

The survey found that many physicians are paying lower premiums than they did in the early 2000s and noted that one insurance carrier was recently quoting general surgeons in Wisconsin $10,868, but was quoting $15,980 sixteen years ago.