One area of law that we often get many questions about is the quality of care a loved one receives in a nursing home or rehabilitation center. The concerns appear to be valid. As the New York Times recently reported, since 2013 federal records reveal that nearly 40% of nursing homes have been cited for serious violations of patient care. The Times article notes that “common citations include failing to protect residents from avoidable accidents, neglect, mistreatment and bedsores.” Sadly, the article also concludes that the government is not doing its part to appropriately monitor and enforce safety guidelines designed to protect patients. Continue reading
Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed major legislation repealing many important reforms created by the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. This new bill, was passed before many legislators had an opportunity to read the text, and before receiving any cost and coverage analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”). The bill fundamentally alters America’s health insurance system. The new law will impact approximately one-sixth of the nation’s economy and early projections from the scoring of previous bills estimate that as many as 24 million Americans could lose health insurance coverage. The law also affects other popular Obamacare regulations such as a ban on insurance companies placing lifetime caps on an insured’s care or denying of coverage for pre-existing conditions.
The attorneys at Leopold & Associates find many of these changes unconscionable. The impact on many residents in our Chicago community could literally be the difference between life and death. In addition to these concerns, we are also worried about proposals being floated within the new law that will substantially affect patient’s ability to seek justice when doctors or hospitals violate basic safety rules that seriously impact the patient’s life and the lives of their families. We are concerned about the effect on quality of care, quality of safety measures and the ability for a patient to seek fairness and justice against a medical corporation. But, as the saying goes, you don’t have to take our word for it. Recently, the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial from doctors at Stanford University and Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital highly critical of these proposed “malpractice reforms.” Continue reading
Our practice focuses on medical errors and their impact on our client’s lives and the lives of their families. Oftentimes, these cases stem from care received at a hospital or a doctor’s office. However, medical errors can happen in all branches of medicine. Today, we examine that quite literally by looking at medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. While we often take for granted prescriptions we receive from our local pharmacy, it seems as though there has been a recent increase in pharmaceutical errors that can sometimes lead to life-threatening problems.
This morning’s New York Times focused on one shocking tragedy; the trial of Barry J. Cadden. Mr. Cadden is the owner and head pharmacist of the New England Compounding Center. The trial stems from what the Times describes as “one of the worst public health crises in the nation’s history.” In 2012, a number of medications manufactured by the New England Compounding Center became tainted leading to an outbreak of meningitis and other serious infections. The outbreak affected more than 700 people and sadly killed 64 people. Hundreds of other patients now live with constant, terminal pain that affects many aspects of their everyday life. Continue reading
Whenever you go to the hospital, every doctor, nurse, therapist or other medical professional that is involved in your care generates a large number of medical records. These records are a vital part of any medical malpractice lawsuit and often total thousands of pages. Medical records serve as a window into the minute details that are often crucial in explaining why a medical procedure may have gone wrong. For example, when a patient is hooked up to monitor, every blood pressure reading, heart fluctuation or oxygen level is recorded, often on a minute-by-minute basis. This allows for the ability to track causes and their effects and pinpoint the precise moment that something may have changed. If a patient’s heart rate unexpectedly drops, it is very important to look at the portion of the medical records surrounding the decreasing heart rate to figure out exactly what may have happened to explain the change.
With all of that said, medical records are very private documents. They often contain information and medical history that is personal and therefore should only be seen by a doctor, the patient or a representative authorized by the patient to view their records. In order to protect this patient privacy, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996. The HIPAA law regulates the use of protected health information by ensuring that this information remains private and is not shared with third parties. Protected health information is broadly defined as any portion of a patient’s medical record or billing information. Continue reading
Last week, NBC Nightly News reported on a shocking study by the National Academy of Medicine regarding medical errors in the United States. According to the report “most Americans will get a wrong or late diagnosis in their lifetimes… often with devastating effects.” Dr. John Ball, chairman of the Committee on Diagnostic Error in Medicine and an author of the study put it more bluntly by stating “everyone will experience one meaningful diagnostic error in their lifetime.”
The statistics are shocking. For example, the study analyzes that “diagnostic errors contribute to 10 percent of patient deaths” and a staggering “6 to 17 percent of adverse events in hospitals.” However, patients often never know these high and unacceptable numbers. The report explains that the lack of a uniform medical system in the United States contributes to keeping these numbers “under the radar” making it very difficult to quantify how many people are seriously injured by medical errors. The report calls this situation both an under-represented and understudied issue area in medicine. Continue reading
One of the most common questions clients ask is why an insurance company, doctor or hospital has placed a lien on the proceeds from their claim settlement or lawsuit verdict? A lien is a type of claim seeking to recover money spent by a healthcare provider to treat a plaintiff’s injuries. The lien allows the provider to be reimbursed for these expenses from the proceeds of any settlement or judgment in connection to the event that caused these injuries. Under Illinois law, a lien is a valid way for medical providers to be reimbursed for outstanding expenses made on a plaintiff’s behalf. See 770 ILCS 23/10. Most health care providers also assert lien recovery rights as a condition of coverage in a health insurance policy.
Example of a lien: The most common example of a medical lien occurs when a health insurance company pays for a plaintiff’s medical care after the plaintiff was injured due to the fault of a third party. These situations commonly occur after auto accidents. For example, when a person is taken to the emergency room following an accident, his or her own individual health insurance policy general pays for the emergency services. When another person is at fault for the accident that caused this emergency treatment (referred to in the insurance industry as the “third party liable”), the injured person (the “plaintiff”) can generally recover the cost of their medical care from the insurance company of the responsible party. At the same time, his or her health insurance company will file a lien seeking reimbursement for the cost of his or her care. The plaintiff then satisfies the lien by refunding his or her own health insurance company for any amounts that were paid for their care. Such an arrangement is fair public policy as without a lien and subsequent refund, a plaintiff would recover their expenses twice: first, through the payment by their health insurance company and a second time when the insurance company for the responsible party reimburses the plaintiff for his or her medical expenses.
There are two important rules that affect how medical bills and liens are determined and compensated: Continue reading
Watching Chicago Bull Derrick Rose running, pivoting and jumping on the basketball court it is easy to understand why his knees are constantly at risk for both the meniscus tears he suffered in 2013 and 2015 and the ACL tear he endured in 2012. Truth is, these unfortunately common injuries, can target everyone from weekend warriors to teenagers to the elderly for a variety of reasons. It is estimated that more than 200,000 cases of ACL injury and more than 500,000 meniscus tears occur in the United States! Why?
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, “the knee is the largest joint in the body and one of the most easily injured.” Our knees are crucial for moving backward, forward, and side-to-side. They also are weight-bearing joints and it is estimated every one pound of excess weight exerts about four pounds of pressure on our knees.