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Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota

Sleazy medical bill collector to pay $2.5 million settlement in Minnesota – what are other states doing about these thugs?

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Accretive Health, one of the nation’s largest collectors of medical debt, has agreed to pay $2.5 million to the Minnesota state attorney general’s office to settle accusations that it violated a federal law requiring hospitals to provide emergency care, even if patients cannot afford to pay…

As part of Monday’s settlement, Accretive Health is also barred from contracting with hospitals within the state for at least two years, effectively ending its business at three Minnesota hospitals. For four years after that, the company will have to obtain permission from the attorney general before resuming business in the state.

In April, Lori Swanson, the Minnesota attorney general, disclosed hundreds of Accretive’s internal documents that outlined aggressive collection tactics, including embedding debt collectors in emergency rooms and pressuring patients to pay before receiving treatment…

In an interview Monday, Ms. Swanson said “a hospital emergency room should be a sanctuary for the sick and wounded, not a hunting ground for collectors.” The settlement will end a civil suit against Accretive, which Ms. Swanson filed in January after a laptop with patient information was stolen, saying that the company had violated state and federal debt collection laws and patient privacy protections…

The revelations in Minnesota have reverberated across the country because they raise concerns that such aggressive tactics have become widespread at hospitals. Accretive Health contracts with some of the largest hospital systems in the country to help them recoup money on unpaid bills that have piled up during the financial crisis and the economic downturn…

Hospitals have long hired outside collection agencies to pursue patients after they have received care. But mounting financial pressures have resulted in hospitals letting collection firms in the front door, turning over the management of their staffing, like patient registration and scheduling, along with their collection activities, according to Ms. Swanson…

Corrupt administrators of hospital systems have been turning over private records to Accretive to aid them in harassing patients. They are at least as slimy as the rest of the hustlers leading the parade of greedy healthcare providers.

RTFA for anecdotal tales of people lying bleeding in a hospital’s emergency room – instead of a caring nurse or doctor standing by their side, they found themselves questioned by an extortion specialist trying to pry their last dollar from their wallet or purse before allowng medical care. The ultimate Republican healthcare portable death panel.

These gangsters operate in nationwide hospital chains, attacking patients in almost every state. Where is the protection guaranteed by federal law? Why aren’t the state’s attorney generals protecting civil rights?

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Written by Ed Campbell

August 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Hospital debt collector hassles patients awaiting surgery, accesses patient records, violates privacy

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You don’t pay up, on time – we’ll remove your stitches with a rake!

Hospital patients waiting in the emergency room or convalescing after surgery could find themselves confronted by an unexpected visitor: a debt collector at bedside.

One of the nation’s largest medical debt-collection companies is under fire in Minnesota for having placed its employees in emergency rooms and other departments at two hospitals and demanding that patients pay before receiving treatment, according to documents released Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general. The documents say the company also used patient health records to wrangle for more money on overdue bills.

The company, Accretive Health, has contracts not only with the two hospitals cited in Minnesota but also with some of the largest hospital systems in the country, including Henry Ford Health System in Michigan and Intermountain Healthcare in Utah. Since January, it has faced a civil lawsuit filed by Attorney General Lori Swanson of Minnesota alleging that it violated state and federal debt-collection laws and patient privacy protections…

An Accretive Health spokeswoman declined to comment on whether other states were looking into its practices. “We have a great track record of helping hospitals enhance their quality of care,” she said…

Indistinguishable from medical staff members, Accretive employees register patients, take down sensitive health information and champion aggressive bill collection goals with incentives like gift cards for staff members, the company records show.

“It is absolutely stunning that the company has systematically trampled on patient rights, perverting the charitable mission of a hospital,” Ms. Swanson said in an interview…

While hospital collections increased, patient care plummeted, the employees said. “Patients are harassed mercilessly,” a hospital employee told Ms. Swanson. Another hospital employee complained, “We were told if we don’t get money from patients, in the emergency room, we will be fired…”

By giving its collectors access to health records, Accretive violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, colloquially known as HIPAA, Ms. Swanson said.

Anyone surprised that hospital systems that often mimic criminal extortion would rely on tactics akin to loan sharks?

Written by Ed Campbell

April 25, 2012 at 2:00 am

Oops! of the Day

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Daylife/AP PHoto used by permission

In this photo provided by Minnesota State Patrol, a semi truck is submerged in an icy pond in Monticello, Minn. on Friday, Jan. 6, 2012. The Minnesota State Patrol says the driver was taken to a local hospital, treated and released. Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske says the driver was pulling a Target trailer, left eastbound I-94, crossed over lanes of oncoming traffic and skidded onto the pond. Roeske says the semi skidded 100 to 200 yards across the ice before breaking through.

Looking at videos of the accident, the ice appears thick enough that the driver almost – that’s almost – made it across the pond.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Sewage plants may be contributing to antibiotic resistant bacteria

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Water discharged into lakes and rivers from municipal sewage treatment plants may contain significant concentrations of the genes that make bacteria antibiotic-resistant. That’s the conclusion of a new study on a sewage treatment plant on Lake Superior in the Duluth, Minn., harbor…

Timothy M. LaPara and colleagues explain that antibiotic-resistant bacteria — a major problem in medicine today — are abundant in the sewage that enters municipal wastewater treatment plants. Treatment is intended to kill the bacteria, and it removes many of the bacterial genes that cause antibiotic resistance. However, genes or bacteria may be released in effluent from the plant. In an effort to determine the importance of municipal sewage treatment plants as sources of antibiotic resistance genes, the scientists studied releases of those genes at the Duluth facility.

Although the Duluth facility uses some of the most advanced technology for cleaning wastewater — so-called tertiary treatment — the study identified it as an important source of antibiotic resistance genes. Sampling of water at 13 locations detected three genes, for instance, that make bacteria resistant to the tetracycline group of antibiotics, which are used to treat conditions ranging from acne to sexually transmitted diseases to anthrax and bubonic plague.

LaPara’s team says their research demonstrates that even the most high-tech sewage treatment plants may be significant sources of antibiotic resistance genes in waterways.

Crap! What will we do as an alternative? Do we add more chemicals to the process – possibly increasing dangerous materials in the effluent? Our population everywhere in the West adds pharmaceuticals that slide through sewage like grease through a goose. How much of that is involved in the processes which lead to these genes surviving, mutating?

The sludge being treated becomes more dangerous every year – as it is.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 8, 2011 at 6:00 am

Midwest farmers on the alert for pig rustlers

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Here in pig country, the pigs are vanishing.

This month, 150 pigs — each one weighing more than an average grown man — disappeared from a farm building in Lafayette despite deadbolts on its doors. Farther north near Lake Lillian, 594 snorting, squealing hogs disappeared last month, whisked away in the dark.

And in Iowa, with added cover from the vast stretches of tall cornfields, pigs have been snatched, 20 or 30 at a time, from as many as eight facilities in the last few weeks, said the sheriff of Mitchell County, adding that among other challenges, the missing are difficult to single out.

“They all look alike,” said Curt Younker, the sheriff, who said he had only rarely heard of pig thefts in his decades on the job. “Suddenly we’re plagued with them.”

Some livestock economists pointed to the thefts in this hog-rich region as…a reflection of record-high prices for hogs this year and the ease of stealing pigs from the large barns that are often far from the farmer’s house.

“This is the hot commodity of the moment, like copper…and gold,” said Ryan Bode, whose family company, Rebco Pork, discovered that 150 of its pigs were missing on Sept. 16, shortly before they were to be taken to market…

Mr. Bode seemed doubtful about seeing his pigs again. “My guess is that they’re bacon and pork chops already…”

Investigators suspect that the pigs may have been taken to meat-processing plants or affiliated “drop-off” facilities or that they were sold at auction barns, which are less common these days as more large pig producers have direct arrangements with food-packing companies.

But that has raised an uncomfortable suggestion in an industry where many of the biggest farmers and pork buyers know one another personally and where a stranger pulling up to sell 100 hogs should give pause.

Someone in the business somewhere has the answer as to who’s doing this,” said Sheriff Marc Chadderdon.

RTFA. Crime stories are a magnet for me. Not only catching the thieves; but, how the thieves pulled off the job.

Some of the article is hogwash. :) It’s absurd for an informed journalist to blame the lousy economy for the thefts – though she tries to. It’s the skyrocketing value of the pigs that motivates these crooks. Easy access to something worth stealing – and someone ready to buy.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 24, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Phony lawyer, phony notary, forger – and also a pimp!

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The website advertising legal services from Thomas J. Lyon & Associates boasts about Lyon’s victories for clients. “We win cases all the time,” the site says. “It’s what we do…”

But Lyon is not an attorney. He’s been using another person’s Wisconsin Bar license number, that of attorney Thomas J. Lyons who has a practice in St. Paul, Minn., according to a criminal complaint. Lyon also has used the notary stamp of a dead notary public and forged the signature of court officials, the complaint says.

Prosecutors on Friday charged Lyon with practicing law without a license, theft, forgery and related charges tied to Lyon’s legal practice…

The receptionist also said she was one of several prostitutes working for the escort service “Lacuna Limited” that Lyon had set up in Milwaukee. She told an investigator that she helped to recruit new prostitutes for the escort service…

A probation agent told a detective with the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office that Lyon is on probation after convictions of grand larceny, stalking and false imprisonment in New York. Lyon’s probation was transferred to Wisconsin, the probation officer told the detective…

The system is better now that it has some checks, he said. But the Minnesota Lyons, the real Lyons said he was amused that the coincidence of the similar names allowed someone to trick court officials.

I don’t think it’s especially amusing that the court officials and everyone from local business folks to the police department never noticed [a] this clown wasn’t a real lawyer and [b] he was fronting a string of hookers.

Doesn’t sound like a surplus of integrity in Milwaukee.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 26, 2010 at 2:00 am

Why is rheumatoid arthritis increasing in women?

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The incidence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in women has risen during the period of 1995 to 2007, according to a newly published study by researchers from the Mayo Clinic. This rise in RA follows a 4-decade period of decline and study authors speculate environmental factors such as cigarette smoking, vitamin D deficiency, and lower dose synthetic estrogens in oral contraceptives may be the source of the increase…

Between 1 and 2 million Americans suffer the effects of RA, a chronic inflammatory disease that targets joints and which contributes to work-related disability, increased morbidity, and shortened survival. Up to one-half of all RA patients become unable to work within 10-20 years of follow-up and those with the disease have a 60% to 70% higher mortality risk than those in the general population. Furthermore, studies show that RA treatments alone account for $9 billion in excess health care costs with direct and indirect costs expected to exceed $39 billion annually…

“We observed a modest increase of RA incidence in women during the study period, which followed a sharp decline in incidence during the previous 4 decades,” said Dr. Sherine Gabriel. Results show that RA incidence in women increased by 2.5% per year from 1995 to 2007, while a decrease of 0.5% was noted for men. Researchers did not find a disproportionate increase in RA incidence in any particular age group over the study period.

Prior studies have clearly demonstrated that cigarette smoking is associated with a greater risk for RA development in both sexes. While smoking rates in the U.S. are declining, the rate is significantly slower in women than men, which researchers believe may, in part, explain the modest increase of RA incidence in women. Researchers also note that lower doses of estrogens found in modern oral contraceptives offer less protection against RA development then at the previously higher doses found in older medications, which they suspect may contribute to the increased RA incidence among women. Furthermore, several studies have shown vitamin D deficiency to be associated with RA development and coupled with evidence that this deficiency, particularly in women, has risen over the past decades the Mayo team considered it a possible contributor to the upward trend in RA.

Dr. Gabriel concluded, “Reasons for the increase in incidence we found are unknown, but environmental factors likely play a role and should be further explored.”

There is ever-increasing evidence that we’re killing ourselves slowly with all the crap we accept as part of an urban industrial environment. It has to cease. We have to win back a healthier lifestyle.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 31, 2010 at 2:00 am

Unprecedented international tornado study begins

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An international team of researchers are embarking on what has been described as the most ambitious tornado study in history.

An array of instruments will be deployed across the US Great Plains, where violent twisters are more common than anywhere else on the planet. It is hoped that the data gathered will improve tornado warnings and forecasts.

More than 100 scientists will be involved in the study, which will continue until the middle of June…

The study, Vortex2, will use a range of enhanced mobile radars and other weather-sensing equipment in order to build up a comprehensive picture of the zones where tornadoes develop.

Researchers say that rapidly changing contrasts in wind and temperatures in an area just a few miles across can spawn a tornado in a matter of minutes.

But, they added, only a small percentage of “supercell storms” generate twisters, and standard observing networks and radars struggle to pick up the atmospheric conditions that lead to the formation of a tornado…

The study area stretches from West Texas to south-west Minnesota, covering more than 900 miles.

The researchers will not have a fixed base, spending the entire six weeks on the road following outbreaks of severe weather.

Surrounded by pilots in this family, you know I had to get this post up for the weekend.

Though, frankly, as someone who used to live on the road – in later years in regions including part of Tornado Alley – I’m as interested as any of the usual weather geeks in the family.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 1, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Republicans hate census – but willing to cop to the look!

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Have you filled out your “2010 Congressional District Census” yet?

It’s arriving this week in mailboxes in Minnesota, New York and Washington state. At first glance, it might appear to be related to the upcoming once-a-decade count of every man, woman and child in the United States.

It’s not. It’s a Republican fundraiser and opinion poll…

“This is as egregious as it gets,” said Luz Maria Frias, director of St. Paul’s Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity and the city’s point person for raising awareness of the federal 2010 U.S. census.

“Between now and April 1, there will be an inundation of census information, and the timing of this is really suspect. It smells.”

Inside the envelope, which is labeled “DO NOT DESTROY — OFFICIAL DOCUMENT,” beneath “2010 Congressional District Census” and above the relevant congressional district and alphanumeric “Census Tracking Code” (which appears to be meaningless), appears the smaller-type phrase: “Commissioned by the Republican Party.”

Understand that Republican tactics are formulated by the same slimeballs who send phony mailers to our homes – trying to look like they’re from the Social Security Administration – to sell us supplemental medicare insurance from Bill Frist.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 22, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Dark matter finally detected?

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For 80 years, it has eluded the finest minds in science. But tonight it appeared that the hunt may be over for dark matter, the mysterious and invisible substance that accounts for three-quarters of the mass of the universe.

In a series of coordinated announcements at several US laboratories, researchers said they believed they had captured dark matter in a defunct iron ore mine half a mile underground. The claim, if confirmed next year, will rank as one the most spectacular discoveries in physics in the past century.

Tantalising glimpses of dark matter particles were picked up by highly sensitive detectors at the bottom of the Soudan mine in Minnesota, the scientists said.

Dan Bauer, head of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS), said the group had spotted two particles with all the expected characteristics of dark matter. There is a one in four chance that the result is due to some other effect in the underground detectors, Bauer told a seminar at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, near Chicago…

“If they have a real signal, it’s a seriously big deal. The scale on which people are looking for dark matter is vast,” said Gerry Gilmore at Cambridge University’s institute of astronomy. “Dark matter is what created the structure of the universe and is essentially what holds it together. When ordinary matter falls into lumps of dark matter it turns into galaxies, stars, planets and people. Without it, we wouldn’t be here,” Gilmore said…

RTFA. If you read anything today – RTFA.

Fascinating and qualitative step forward in science – though it may take a while to prove and publish.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 18, 2009 at 6:00 am

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