Massachusetts man charged in motorcycle accident

Twenty-three-year-old Burlington, Massachusetts resident Patrick Litchfield has been charged with multiple criminal offenses in relation to a hit-and-run motorcycle accident that occurred on Route 25 in Gorham, Maine on Monday, October 5 at around 7 a.m. and caused injuries to 37-year-old Hiram resident Jonathan Lord.

Gorham police arrested Litchfield and charged him with reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, leaving the scene of a personal injury crash, possession of heroin, criminal speeding, driving to endanger, driving after his license was revoked, and trafficking in dangerous knives.

According to Lieutenant Christopher Sanborn, Officer Robert Henckel had been patrolling Route 25 when a gold-colored sedan traveling at 85 miles per hour in a 50 mph zone came zooming past him in the opposite direction.

Henckel said he turned his police cruiser around to question the speeding driver, but he stopped when he found Lord and his battered motorcycle resting beside the road.

Dangerous drivers are out there, and they cause serious accidents every day. If you have been injured in a car accident, call Crowe & Mulvey, LLP at (617) 426-4488 today to discuss your options.

Insurance industry financially booming yet rates steadily decline, according to 2013 report

The Medical Liability Monitor recently released its 2013 annual survey and one of its main findings showed that even as insurance rates and written premiums have continued to go down since 2006, the medical professional liability insurance industry as a whole has been booming financially over the years.

Chad Karls, author of this year’s Executive Summary, said the industry’s premium revenue has continued to surpass claims expenses, with annual combined ratios for medical insurers coming in below 100% annually since 2006. Insurance rates suffered a great decline this year with a 28.8% of all manual rates slumping in 2013 after a 3.1% increase last year.

The Northeast region of the United States was the only one to see an increase in medical insurance rates, albeit lower than last year’s 1.19% at only 0.7%, with New York leading the rise (4.8%). New York was followed by New Hampshire with a 4.2% increase.

It is important that physicians and medical staff do their job to the best of their abilities, follow all regulations, and ensure that medical procedures are done properly, as one error move can mean the difference between life and death for patients. If you have been the victim of medical malpractice in Massachusetts, our attorneys at Crowe & Mulvey, LLP can help. Call us at (617) 426-4488 to discuss your situation with us and find out more about your options.

Why Medical Care Costs So Much

bitter pill coverA recent special issue of Time Magazine is must-reading for anyone interested in understanding why health care costs are spiraling out of control.  As author Steven Brill reveals, hospitals routinely reap unconscionable profits by adding huge markups to the charges for common supplies and medications that any consumer could buy online for a fraction of the price, billing patients several times the actual cost for specialty medical devices, and ordering unnecessary lab and radiology studies that generate added revenue.

Brill cites specific examples: $108 for the common antibiotic ointment bacitracin, $1.50 for a single acetominophen tablet, $7 for the little alcohol-soaked pad used to swab your arm before you get an injection or a blood draw.  The list goes on for more specialized items: $49,237 for a medical device that one source estimated cost the hospital perhaps $19,000 to buy, and $13,702 for a medicine that, using the manufacturer’s financial investor reports, may have cost as little as $300 to make.

Brill’s extensively researched article dissects medical bills received by several patients around the country, most of whom needed extensive medical care due to an unexpected accident or diagnosis of cancer.  These middle-class citizens, all with health insurance, were financially ruined by the hospital bills they received.  Even those who received assistance from billing advocates who specialize in negotiating medical bills, the charges were well beyond their means.

For example:  In the 11 months between his diagnosis and his death, the total bill to a California man who died of lung cancer came to $902,452.  His health insurance paid $50,000 of that total, the lifetime limit of the policy.  And even after aggressive negotiation by a trained advocate, his family still owed nearly $200,000–an amount they can never hope to pay.   A school bus driver from Connecticut slipped in her yard and broke her nose.  Her six hours in the emergency room cost $9,418.  Her insurance coverage was limited to $2500 per hospital visit and a judge ordered her to pay the remaining $7000, less $500 he ruled was duplicative.  A man who sought cancer treatment at renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston had to pay $83,900 in advance to get his treatment plan and begin chemotherapy.  Needless to say, his insurance plan, which capped costs at $2,000 a day, was not particularly helpful.

Brill contrasts these horror stories with a satisfied medical consumer, an older gentleman who has received excellent medical care from world-famous facilities with minimal out-of-pocket cost to him, while Medicare and a supplemental insurance policy covered the lion’s share of the charges.  Still, Brill notes, the amount paid by Medicare is far below what the providers charge to patients with private insurance or no insurance.  For example, the bus driver with the nosebleed has to pay $6,538 for three CT scans; Medicare would pay just $825 for the same studies.

Brill also exposes the exorbitant salaries paid to many hospital and health care administrators, running to the millions of dollars per year.  The head of the Yale-New Haven hospital system earns $2.5 million per year–nearly $1 million more than the University president.  The chief executive officers of the ten largest non-profit hospitals in country all make more than $2 million per year–with the highest earner topping out at nearly $6 million.  To put that in perspective, Brill notes that the head of the American Red Cross is paid just $560,000 per year.

One of Brill’s suggested cures for the out-of-control costs is almost counter-intuitive.  Rather than raising the age at which patients become eligible for Medicare, Brill suggests that the eligibility age ought to be lowered.  This would spread the risk by including more younger (and presumably healthier) patients in the pool of covered patients, and would lower costs overall because Medicare pays a much lower rate for care than private insurers.  For example, Brill notes that if a 64-year-old woman profiled in his article, treated at a Connecticut hospital for chest pain, had been 65–Medicare would have paid something in the range of $2500-$3000, instead of the $21,000 she was charged.

Interestingly, the medical malpractice system draws only indirect criticism from Brill.  While he suggests some reform might be appropriate, his stated reason is so that doctors won’t incur additional costs  by ordering unnecessary tests for fear of being sued.  More on this thought in the next post.