Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Socialized Obamacare for all Americans -- except veterans???

American Legion Strongly Opposed to Obama's Plan to Charge Wounded Heroes for medical Treatment

The leader of the nation's largest veterans organization says he is "deeply disappointed and concerned" after a meeting with President Barack Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries. The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs in such cases.

"It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan," said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion in a news release early this evening. "He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it."

Commander Rehbein, clearly angered as he emerged from the session said, "This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate `. to care for him who shall have borne the battle.' given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm's way, and not private insurance companies. I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America's veterans!"

Commander Rehbein was among a group of senior officials from veterans service organizations joining the President, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Steven Kosiak, the overseer of defense spending at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The group's early afternoon conversation at The White House was precipitated by a letter of protest presented to the president earlier this month. The letter, co-signed by Commander Rehbein and the heads of ten colleague organizations, read, in part, "There is simply no logical explanation for billing a veteran's personal insurance for care that the VA has a responsibility to provide. While we understand the fiscal difficulties this country faces right now, placing the burden of those fiscal problems on the men and women who have already sacrificed a great deal for this country is unconscionable."

Commander Rehbein reiterated points made last week in testimony to both House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees. It was stated then that The American Legion believes that the reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate that VA treat service-connected injuries and disabilities given that the U.S. government sends members of the armed forces into harm's way, and not private insurance companies. The proposed requirement for these companies to reimburse the VA would not only be unfair, says the Legion, but would have an adverse impact on service-connected disabled veterans and their families. The Legion argues that, depending on the severity of the medical conditions involved, maximum insurance coverage limits could be reached through treatment of the veteran's condition alone. That would leave the rest of the family without health care benefits. The Legion also points out that many health insurance companies require deductibles to be paid before any benefits are covered. Additionally, the Legion is concerned that private insurance premiums would be elevated to cover service-connected disabled veterans and their families, especially if the veterans are self-employed or employed in small businesses unable to negotiate more favorable across-the-board insurance policy pricing. The American Legion also believes that some employers, especially small businesses, would be reluctant to hire veterans with service-connected disabilities due to the negative impact their employment might have on obtaining and financing company health care benefits.

"I got the distinct impression that the only hope of this plan not being enacted," said Commander Rehbein, "is for an alternative plan to be developed that would generate the desired $540-million in revenue. The American Legion has long advocated for Medicare reimbursement to VA for the treatment of veterans. This, we believe, would more easily meet the president's financial goal. We will present that idea in an anticipated conference call with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel in the near future.

"I only hope the administration will really listen to us then. This matter has far more serious ramifications than the President is imagining," concluded the commander.


The NHS hospital where 'at least 400' could have died needlessly

Unacceptable standards of patient care could have led to hundreds of deaths at a single hospital in a three-year period. A damning report to be released tomorrow by the Healthcare Commission will outline a catalogue of failings at a hospital trust blinded by a drive to save money and abide by Government waiting-time targets. An advance copy of the report seen by the Daily Mail estimated 'at least' 400 deaths between 2005 and 2008 could not be accounted for by 'other factors or by chance variation'. Sources close to the investigation into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust said the true figure could be as high as 1,300 patients.

The report found that mortality was 'found to be high across a range of conditions including those involving the heart, blood vessels, nervous system, lungs, blood and infectious diseases', and added: 'These findings were indicative of systemic problems across the trust's system of emergency care.' The Mid Staffordshire trust runs Stafford Hospital and Cannock Chase Hospital but it is believed the Healthcare Commission found there was no cause for concern at Cannock Chase.

Health campaigners said they feared the findings at Stafford reflect problems with the NHS nationally where targets have distorted basic care. The commission found that the A&E department was understaffed and poorly equipped; a shortage of nurses meant receptionists were left to assess patients; nurses were not trained to read cardiac monitors; patients received incorrect medication, or none at all, and were left for hours in wet or soiled bedding; there were too few specialist beds for stroke patients; essential equipment such as defibrillators was missing or not working and accepted standards of practice in infection control were not maintained.

Tory MP Bill Cash, whose Stone constituency relies on Stafford Hospital, said he had been inundated with complaints from constituents. 'I wrote to the Healthcare Commission a few months ago asking for a whole range of complaints by my constituents to be looked into. 'The report findings tally with what they have told me, especially about patients being left in dirty bedding. The Government has poured money into the hospitals but this just shows that money on its own will not solve the problems. 'There is far too much bureaucracy and too little front-line service in the NHS.'

The report said a shortage of doctors meant they 'were moved from treating seriously ill patients to deal with those with more minor ailments, in order to avoid breaching the four-hour waiting time target.' It was also critical of the trust's axing of 150 jobs - many of them nurses - over 2006/07 as part of a plan to save 10million to meet national cost-saving targets.

The commission launched an investigation in March last year after figures revealed high mortality rates for patients admitted as emergencies, which the trust had failed to investigate adequately. The trust's standardised mortality rate (SMR) was 127 in 2005/06, way above the national rate of 100, making it the fifth-highest in England. The rate is not the actual number of deaths, but an expression of the link between registered deaths and those expected from the number of diagnoses. Over the following two years, the rate at one point jumped to 145.

A source said the reference to the scandal being the likely cause of 'at least 400 deaths' was removed from the final version of the report summary yesterday morning amid concerns about the way the figure was calculated. 'Regardless of this, the report makes it obvious that the hospital had serious shortcomings. 'The fact that this trust was only the fifth-worst in England, in terms of its SMR, does not bode well for the rest of the country's hospitals.'

The period the hospital trust was under investigation coincides with the reign of the current NHS chief executive, David Nicholson, as chief executive of the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority, which covers Staffordshire. Mr Nicholson left in 2006 and was replaced by Cynthia Bower, who is the new head of the Care Quality Care Commission, which will replace the Healthcare Commission at the end of this month. Last week, it was announced that the Mid Staffordshire Trust's chairman, Toni Brisby, and chief executive, Martin Yeates, had resigned ahead of the commission's report. But sources close to the investigation believe the pair were ' sacrificed' as scapegoats to deflect attention away from Mr Nicholson and Mrs Bower's proximity to the Staffordshire scandal.


Arthur Peacham, 68, had been retired for just two weeks when he was admitted to Stafford Hospital with back pain following a hernia operation. After a week he was about to go home when staff told his wife, Gillian, that he had caught the C.difficile superbug. After that, Mrs Peacham said, a series of 'horrendous' blunders helped lead to her husband's death on March 19, 2006, including failing to give him food and leaving him on 'filthy' wards.

'What happened to him was horrific,' said Mrs Peacham, 69. 'When they told me he had caught C. difficile they admitted they had known 11 other people on the ward were already infected but they had nowhere else to put him. 'They told us it wasn't contagious but my son checked on the internet and saw that it was highly contagious and could result in death. 'My husband went downhill from there. He was having trouble keeping food down and they were supposed to give him a special drink but they didn't feed him most of the time. 'Either they would forget to get a prescription from the doctor or they were too short- staffed to care for him.

Mr Peacham, an agronomist who had two sons and four grandchildren, was eventually moved to New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton in early March. His widow said: 'There it was amazing. He was so clean and well looked after. 'Unfortunately by then it was too late. The C.diff had ravaged his body.' She added: 'The care at Stafford Hospital was dreadful, abysmal, inexcusable.'


Child died after Australian public hospitals sent him home three times

Calling this kid's problem "croup" is absurd. Croup has a frequent cough and there is no mention of that. And croup is very common so the doctors should have known that. The negligence is gross

Timothy Wood's parents knew something was terribly wrong with their son, but they could not get the help they were sure he needed. Desperately straining for air and with swelling around his neck, the 19-month-old was sent home from hospital on July 16, 2005, for the third time in four days. The next afternoon, he was rushed back to hospital, where he died two days later.

Anthony and Robyn Wood hope a coronial inquest will give them some answers. Their solicitor Kathryn Booth, of Maurice Blackburn, said outside the Victorian Coroners Court yesterday: "Mr and Mrs Wood have been waiting a very long time to have this inquest and it's been important to them to get answers as to why Timmy died after three presentations to two different hospitals."

Mr Wood said: "The last thing we want to have happen is the same thing happen to another child - it was bad enough to go through it. "You're not meant to outlive your children and it will be something that we will take to our grave."

In statements tendered to the court, Mr Wood said he believed the Austin Hospital should have done things differently when he took his son there on July 16, 2005. "I do not believe that Timothy should have been discharged from the hospital that evening," he said. "The medical staff was not in a position to accurately diagnose the extent of Timothy's problem or make a decision to discharge him as he had not been closely monitored and examined during his time at the hospital." Giving evidence, Mr Wood was even more direct. "We thought the observation levels (at the Austin Hospital) were pathetic. They weren't there," he said.

Timmy became sick on Thursday, July 14, 2005. By about 2am on the Friday, his breathing was badly restricted and his parents called an ambulance. He was taken to the Royal Children's Hospital, where he was diagnosed with croup, observed for four hours and given medication before being sent home. On the Saturday morning, the Woods were still concerned and took him back. When they saw the triage nurse they were told if they waited in emergency for a doctor it would be unlikely that the treatment plan would change.

They went home, but Timmy did not improve and they called a 24-hour maternal health nurse help line. The nurse could hear Timmy's laboured breathing and told Mr Wood to call an ambulance immediately and prepare for an overnight stay. But when they got to the Austin hospital - the Royal Children's was full - Timmy was not admitted. Instead, he was given more medication and sent home.

The next day, he stopped breathing. Mr Wood administered CPR until an ambulance arrived and Timmy was rushed to the Royal Children's Hospital, where he died two days later. Mr Wood wrote in a letter to the coroner in August 2005: "It was said to us by some of the (intensive care unit) team at the Royal Children's Hospital that they are amazed that a child can die from croup these days. "The Austin Hospital and medical team simply let us down."

The inquest, before coroner David Drake, continues.


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