North Carolina Medicaid Nearly $140 Million Short Of Budget
October 27th, 2011
October 27, 2011
North Carolina’s Medicaid program is nearly $140 million short of its budget because of the organization’s inability to save due to the slow process of federal approval and government misspending. According to WRAL News, the lack of funds means the government will have to reduce or eliminate “optional” services.
Both Medicaid and Community Care of North Carolina, a state managed care program, are both failing to meet savings goals because of a slow approval process by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for changes set forth in the state budget earlier this year. Also, state legislature failed to set aside $41 million to help pay for a 2008 accounting error that created overpayments. Plus, the state must pay another $42 million in fines for improper billing and inadequate documentation for claims.
The rest of the shortfalls will be made up in cuts to the program, as the General Assembly has already given it’s approval to Health and Human Services Secretary, Lanier Cansler, to get rid of or cut optional services if goals are not met. Some of these services are vital to many of the 1.5 million recipients statewide, including hearing aids, dental care, and organ transplants.
The North Carolina Social Security Disability Attorneys at HensonFuerst want to know what you think about the program cuts. Give us your opinion by posting to our Facebook page.
Halloween Booze It & Lose It 2011
October 26th, 2011
“Booze It & Lose It” is a safety campaign run by the Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP). It becomes active during high-alcohol holiday seasons. Halloween fits that description.
Starting Friday, October 28 through Monday, October 31, North Carolina will have checkpoints and stepped-up patrols in an effort to remove impaired drivers from the roads. How much of a force will be rallied? Well, in 2010, the 3-day Halloween Booze It & Lose It campaign, the 2388 checkpoints and patrols racked up more than 19,000 traffic and criminal violations. This included 774 DWIs, 405 drug violations, and 5547 speeding/reckless driving tickets.
The on-going goal of Booze It & Lose It is to make sure that drunk drivers (those who “booze it”) lose their driving privileges. In North Carolina, the first conviction for driving while impaired (DWI) requires mandatory revocation of your driver’s license for one year, and you will also pay a fine and spend up to 2 years in jail. If you get a second conviction within three years of the first, you lose your license for four years and you will also face jail time. With a third conviction (when at least one of the prior convictions was within the last 5 years), your drivers license is permanently revoked.
To read more about the facts of DWI in North Carolina and the Booze It & Lose It campaign, click here: Save a life…Drive sober.
This Halloween weekend, party responsibly…and please don’t drink and drive. If you get stopped for DWI, it won’t matter how good your costume is, there will be no treats waiting for you in jail.
Be Cautious With Black Licorice
October 26th, 2011
Black licorice—either you love it or hate it. If you love it, you need to be aware that too much of a good thing can be seriously dangerous to your health.
Black licorice contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, which can cause potassium levels in the body to fall. What this means is that adults who eat as little as 2 ounces of licorice a day for two weeks or longer could end up in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm. (Two ounces is less than 6 sticks of licorice.)
This danger is especially true for people who are over age 40 who have a history of heart disease and/or high blood pressure. The arrhythmia is temporary, and heart rhythms and potassium levels return to normal after stopping eating licorice.
If you have a fondness for black licorice, FDA offers this advice:
- No matter what your age, don’t eat large amounts of black licorice at one time.
- If you have been eating a lot of black licorice and have an irregular heart rhythm or muscle weakness, stop eating it immediately and contact your healthcare provider.
- Black licorice can interact with some medications, herbs and dietary supplements. Consult a health care professional if you have questions about possible interactions with a drug or supplement you take.
To read the full announcement from the FDA, click here: Trick or Treat?
What's Your Sleep Number?
October 25th, 2011
A popular mattress company asks in its TV commercials: “What’s your sleep number?” To them, the number refers to the firmness of the mattress. When doctors ask the same question, however, they want to know how many hours of sleep you get per night.
[photo from The New York Times
So…what’s your sleep number?
According to an article in The New York Times, a huge number of people seek help for sleeping problems. Sometimes—but not as often as you might think—the answer is as simple as getting a new mattress (more about that later in this blog). But the issue of sleep is more complex than that.
According to James Wyatt, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Rush University Medical Center, people who have sleep problems actually need to be divided into two broad categories — those who have sleep disorders and those who don’t sleep enough.
“There are over 70 different types of sleep disorders,” Mr. Wyatt said, including problems with breathing, like sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep terrors and nightmares and sleepwalking. For those kinds of disorders, it can be helpful to go to a sleep disorders clinic and unlearn patterns and behavior that may be causing these problems, Mr. Wyatt said.
Mostly, we just don’t sleep enough.
Everyone knows that lack of sleep causes drowsiness, sluggish thinking, and “foggy brain.” But lack of sleep is much more serious that most people know. Scientific research shows has linked lack of sleep to weight gain (yes…weight gain!), heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Sleep disruption can affect natural body hormones and proteins, which are related to disease processes. According to an article in The Washington Post:
“Lack of sleep disrupts every physiologic function in the body,” said Eve Van Cauter of the University of Chicago. “We have nothing in our biology that allows us to adapt to this behavior.”
For the majority of sleepy people, the problem isn’t that they can’t sleep, it’s that they don’t. We read about high-powered executives and television personalities who claim to get by just fine on 3 to 4 hours of sleep per night. It makes the rest of us—those who sleep longer than a long evening nap—feel like slackers. But in reality, doctors suggest that most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
According to the article in The New York Times, one of the newly converted sleep proponents is Arianna Huffington, cofounder of The Huffington Post:
Several years ago, she said, sleep deprivation caused her to faint, hit her head on her desk and break her cheekbone.
“I began on a journey reacquainting myself with sleep,” she said. Last year, along with Glamour magazine’s editor Cindi Leive, she pledged to get eight hours sleep a night for a month — a promise she continues to keep.
“When I’ve had a good night’s sleep, I feel more creative and enjoy life more,” she said. The Huffington Post offices even have two nap rooms with couches and headphones.
Doctors would love to see society back away from the competitive I-sleep-fewer-hours-than-you culture. To get to sleep more and better, experts quoted in the article in The New York Times suggest:
- Get into bed at a time that allows you at least 7 hours of sleep. (This may be the most difficult recommendation of all.)
- Unwind before bed, and allow your mind to become calm. Choose what works best for you. For some people, it may be listening to music, for others, reading a book. Find routine and stick with it.
- If you watch TV in bed, use a timer so it turns itself off at a defined time.
- If you have trouble waking in the night to outside noises, invest in a white-noise machine. If you have an iPod speaker system, you can download nature sounds that you can put on a loop to play throughout the night.
- Mattresses can help or hinder sleep:
While few sleep experts will recommend a particular mattress brand, Howard Levy, an assistant professor at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said the best mattress for people suffering from lower back pain was a mattress with a soft pillow top and a firm mattress underneath.
“You want something on top that doesn’t put a lot of pressure on the shoulders and sacrum,” Dr. Levy said. But you don’t want a mattress too soft, he added, “where your shoulders fold up like a pretzel.”
- If you do need a new mattress, you may not need to invest in a whole mattress. Helene A. Emsellem, a clinical professor of neurology at George Washington University and director of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, Md., suggested just buying a topper — filled with memory or latex foam, feather or wool — to put over the existing mattress.
But if there is one lesson to come out of this research and information, it is this: People who sleep are not lazy… they are simply taking care of their health.
So…what is your sleep number?
To read the full article in The Washington Post, click here: Scientists finding out what losing sleep does to a body
To read the full article in The New York Times, click here: Not feeling rested?
Pharmacist Changes May Reduce Drug Injuries
October 25th, 2011
Pharmacists are highly trained professionals. They are proficient in biology, chemistry, public health, and pharmacology. They are trained to dispense prescription drugs, while also advising patients and physicians about drug interactions, dosages, and side effects. Some pharmacists also compound new medicines by mixing ingredients.
But lately, these drug experts have been stuck behind the counter at local pharmacies, dealing with insurance companies or answering the phone to tell a patient whether her medication is ready to be picked up. A total waste of talent.
There may be hope. An article in The New York Times reports that Walgreen pharmacists are once again being allowed to become medical care providers. The company is slowly starting to renovate stores to take pharmacists out from behind the counter.
Pharmacists in the revamped stores are being kept away from the telephone, where dealing with insurance coverage questions and other administrative tasks occupy 25 percent of their time, Walgreen says.
“What we are seeing now is pharmacists should be using their knowledge to help consumers manage their medications appropriately,” said Nimesh Jhaveri, executive director of pharmacy and health care experience at Walgreen. “It’s not about the product but the care we give.”
If this works, it will be a great benefit to customers who buy prescription drugs. Fully 50% of all Americans take at least one prescription drug. Each year, more than 825,000 adverse events from medications are reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and pharmacists are important sources of this type of information. They can also be an important gatekeepers to prevent adverse events in the first place. But, of course, there must be financial incentives to allow pharmacists to regain their rightful role in the medication-dispensing process. According to The New York Times:
Federal Medicare drug laws allow for payment to pharmacists for “medication therapy management,” when patients have multiple chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes and asthma and are taking multiple medications. In recent years, Walgreen and other pharmacy chains have lobbied aggressively for reimbursement and changes to rules that allow pharmacists to do more and to get paid for these additional services.
We’ll take anything that reduces the numbers of drug injuries in this country.
To read the full article in The New York Times, click here: Out from behind the counter
HensonFuerst Participates in 2011 NCAJ Food Drive
October 23rd, 2011
Every year, the North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ) holds a food drive to help the community. This far-reaching food drive will benefit people in central and eastern North Carolina, including Wake, Edgecombe, Halifax, Nash, and Wilson Counties. The NCAJ Dare to Care: Feed Those in Need Food Drive will run from Monday, November 7 through Friday, November 11, and HensonFuerst Attorneys will be doing their part to help.
If you would like to donate to this very worthy cause, here are the details:
WHEN: Officially, the food drive starts Monday, November 7 through Friday, November 11. But we have put the boxes in place already, so you can start donating between 8am to 5pm, from now through November 11.
WHERE: Both our main offices:
- RALEIGH: 2501 Blue Ridge Road, Suite 390; Raleigh, NC 27607.
- ROCKY MOUNT: 2317 Sunset Ave; Rocky Mount, NC 27804.
TO DONATE FUNDS: We will gladly accept cash donations. You can drop off checks at our Raleigh or Rocky Mount offices, but give them to the receptionists instead of dropping them in the donation box. Please make checks payable to “Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.”
The NCAJ is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association dedicated to protecting people’s rights through professional and community legal education, championing individual rights, and protecting the safety of North Carolina’s families. For more information, you can visit their website at www.ncaj.com.
If you have specific questions about the food drive, please contact the drive coordinator, April McKee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Durham Daycare Shut Down For Operating Without a License
October 20th, 2011
October 20, 2011
Typically, when we think of nursing home abuse cases, the first thing that comes to mind is elderly folks being neglected in retirement homes and assisted living facilities. What we tend to forget though, is that many of the same regulations in place for elderly-care facilities apply equally for the place of care our youngest family members attend.
Take for instance the recent case of a Durham, North Carolina, woman who was arrested this past Tuesday on felonious charges for running a daycare out of her home without a license. WRAL News reported that authorities acted on a tip from a concerned neighbor that the woman was still running the business after being shut down by officials a year earlier.
The daycare was closed in 2010 when Department of Health and Human Services officials made an unannounced visit only to find that the children had been moved to another house a mile down the road. Can you imagine a parent arriving to find their child is not at the house or with the person they left them with?
This time, after being tipped off the daycare was still in operation, officials returned to find eleven children in the house. The woman and her husband were charged with three counts of running a daycare facility without a license.
The North Carolina Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers with HensonFuerst want you to contact them immediately if you suspect that your loved one, young or old, is not getting the care that they deserve. We can be reached by simply filling out a free online consultation form.
Another High School Football Death
October 20th, 2011
The post-game video review was especially difficult at John C. Birdlebough High School. Administrators and coaches examined every frame of what will forever be known as “THE game.” The game when 16-year-old Ridge Barden died.
According to an article in The New York Times, the coroner ruled that Barden’s death was due to a brain bleed, also known as a subdural hematoma. But while the reason for his death is known, the actual cause is still a mystery.
“There’s nothing here; there’s still nothing there; there’s nothing there; there’s nothing there — and now he’s laying on his stomach,” Jeff Charles, the head coach, said while watching the sequence frame by frame.
Apparently, Barden had no preexisting condition, no history of head trauma, and no symptoms of concussion during the game. He had a state-of-the-art Riddell Revolution helmet. On hand at the game were two certified athletic trainers, and emergency medical technicians arrived with an ambulance within minutes. And yet, a catastrophic injury resulted in an untimely death.
“You can have the perfect plan in place but if all of these things happen, it can still result in a catastrophic injury and death,” said Kevin Guskiewicz, the chairman of the department of exercise and sports science at the University of North Carolina and a leading researcher on sports concussions.
During the game, Barden told his coach that he had a helmet-to-helmet hit, and that his head hurt. When he tried to stand up, he collapsed. He went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance. Two hours after the injury, he had died.
This is a tragic story all around. The coach is considering not returning for another season, despite the fact that everyone agrees he did nothing wrong. No doubt, his teammates—and their parents—will also be reconsidering whether to continue playing football.
The lesson seems to be that any head injury is dangerous, and you can’t predict the outcome of any one hit. Barden never had a chance to say “Yeah, I already had one concussions…I think that’s enough. Time to quit.” His first hit was his final hit. The fatal hit.
All we can say is stay safe. Protect your head. Barden’s death was a fluke. Nothing could have been done differently or better. Sometimes, life is dangerous.
To read the full article in The New York Times, click here: An ordinary football game
To learn more about legal options in the event of a traumatic brain injury, visit our website at www.lawmed.com. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
Does Medicare Fail the Elderly?
October 17th, 2011
In The New York Times, reporter Jane Gross wrote a fascinating opinion piece about Medicare. She calls it the “dirty little secret of health care in America”: That while we assume that Medicare provides universal health care coverage for the elderly, what Medicare actually covers isn’t what recipients want or actually need.
With all the advances in medicine, much of the medical care provided to the elderly today are dangerous, pointless, and expensive. As Jane Gross writes:
Of course, some may actually want everything medical science has to offer. But overwhelmingly, I’ve concluded in a decade of studying America’s elderly, it is fee-for-service doctors and Big Pharma who stand to gain the most, and adult children, with too much emotion and too little information, driving those decisions.
Researchers have discovered that some “standard” treatments are both useless and harmful. For example, feeding tubes cause infections, nausea, vomiting, and agitation…but rarely prolong life. Frail elderly patients who have abdominal surgery, gall bladder surgery, or joint replacements, experience complications…and often require placement in nursing homes.
Medicare pays for all those hazardous treatments. However, Medicare does not typically pay for long-term care in a supervised, safe place for frail or demented old people, or for home aides to help with shopping, transportation, bathing and using the toilet. Ms. Gross continues her story:
In the case of my mother, who died at 88 in 2003, room and board in various assisted living communities, at $2,000 to $3,500 a month for seven years, was not paid for by Medicare. Yet neurosurgery, which I later learned was not expected to be effective in her case, was fully reimbursed, along with two weeks of in-patient care. Her stay of two years at a nursing home, at $14,000 a month (yes, $14,000) was also not paid for by Medicare. Nor were the additional home health aides she needed because of staffing issues. Or the electric wheelchair after strokes had paralyzed all but the finger that operated the joy stick. Or the gizmo with voice commands so she could tell the staff what she needed after her speech was gone.
She paid for the room. My brother and I paid for the private aides and bought her the chair and the “talking board.” What would her life have been like without the skilled care she required and the ability to get around her floor and communicate her needs? I shudder to think. But none of this was Medicare’s responsibility.
Yet Medicare would pay for “heroic” care for a woman who was dying of old age, not a disease that could be treated: Diagnostic tests. All manner of surgery. Expensive medications. Trips to the emergency room or the hospital — had she not refused all of them, in the last year of her life. So, in less than a decade, by my low-ball estimate, my mother spent $500,000 of her own money and uncalculated sums from her two children before winding up what she considered, with shame, “a welfare queen.”
Did you catch that last bit? Half a million dollars?
If you think that’s not in your parents’ future (or your own future), consider that 70 percent of the elderly will need extended care before they die. It would be enormously helpful if Medicare would pay for the care that older patients actually need.
That’s the dirty little secret. That while we count on Medicare to help us keep up with medical care in our golden years, what it actually does is pay for mostly pointless procedures. The actual care falls to families, until all resources are drained, relationships are strained, and adult children lose their retirement savings.
This article scared me. This is one secret that’s not good for anyone.
To read the full article in The New York Times, click here: How Medicare Fails the Elderly
Best Ways to Lower the Chance of SIDS
October 17th, 2011
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) weighed in today about baby products that claim to protect babies from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome , or SIDS.
SIDS is every new parent’s worst fear—an unexplainable, mysterious disorder that causes the sudden death of children under age 1. Manufacturers have been trying to cash in on that fear by creating products marketed as being able to reduce the risk of SIDS. Now, the FDA has made an official statement about these types of products.
According to the FDA:
The best thing you can do to lower the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is to place your baby on his or her back to sleep, with nothing else in the crib or bassinet.
As for infant positioners, mattresses, crib bedding, pillows, crib tents, and other products that manufacturers sell to prevent SIDS:
“These products are absolutely not necessary and they can be very dangerous,” says Susan Cummins, M.D., M.P.H., chief pediatric medical officer in FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
At least one baby dies each year because of sleep positioners. These and other products can be hazardous if the infant slides down and is trapped by wedges designed to keep them on their backs. Other common crib accessories—blankets, quilts, soft toys, and bedding—can smother babies.
According to the FDA, keeping babies safe is as simple as A-B-C:
Alone in their own bed. Don’t keep the infant in your bed next to you and risk that the baby will be accidentally suffocated if you roll over.
Back to sleep—every sleep. “The safest way to put the baby to sleep is on his or her back every time,” says Cummins. “Do not put the baby on his side or on his stomach.” Since the national Back to Sleep campaign in 1994 urged parents to place babies on their backs, there has been a 60 percent reduction in SIDS, Cummins says.
Crib. The baby should always be placed in a crib or bassinet to sleep.
Parents and caregivers can find more information about the risks of using over-the-counter baby products marketed with the claim that they can prevent SIDS here: FDA baby products site
Parents who had an infant die as the result of using these SIDS-preventing products may have a right to seeks compensation from the manufacturers. Our attorneys are available to answer your legal questions at 1-800-4-LAWMED. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.