2 ERs placed on lockdown after chemical scare

From CNN.com

The emergency rooms at two hospitals in Missouri were placed on lockdown Saturday after patients arrived complaining they had been exposed to a chemical.

SSM DePaul Health Center in Bridgeton, Missouri, and St. Anthony’s Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri, admitted the patients and restricted access to their emergency rooms.

The patients were believed to have come to the hospitals after being exposed to the chemical at an industrial site in East St. Louis, Illinois, said Chief Jim Silvernail of the Mehlville Fire District. He described the chemical as a “power situation” that required contact to make the people sick.

SSM DePaul said its hospital went on lockdown around 3:30 p.m. CT.

Hospital officials said three patients were admitted after coming in contact with a chemical that made them sick with respiratory problems. All three were listed in fair condition and showed signs of improvement.

ER Access Means No One is Uninsured

From the Wall Street Journal Health Blog:

A think-tank president told the Dallas Morning News this week that no one in this country is truly uninsured.

The law that requires emergency rooms to care for anyone who walks in the door is, ultimately, a form of health insurance, said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Reacting to the latest census numbers on the number of Americans without health insurance, Goodman reportedly said:

The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American – even illegal aliens – as uninsured. Instead, the bureau should categorize people according to the likely source of payment should they need care.

Balance Billing

From the Wall Street Journal Health Blog:

If your doctor or hospital is unhappy with the payment it receives from your insurance company and decides to bill you for the balance, do you have to pay? Often, the answer is no. But, in the morass that is health care billing, plenty of people don’t know that. So they wind up paying anyway, BusinessWeek reports.

The practice is known as “balance billing,” and it’s been around for years. Forty-seven states ban in-network providers from billing insured patients beyond co-payments or co-insurance required by the plan, BusinessWeek says. And federal law prohibits balance billing for Medicare patients.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. An insurer recently sued a New Jersey medical practice for billing more than 8,000 patients between 2004 and 2006 for a total of $4.3 million. A judge ordered the practice to stop balance billing, and give refunds to patients.

LifeBed

From Medgadget:

Hoana Medical has received European clearance to market its LifeBed hospital bed monitoring and notification system. The system comprises of a bed coverlet which monitors breathing and heartbeat, as well as patient movement, and a wall monitor that can interface with communication systems installed in the hospital.

Drunken-driving fatalities drop in 32 states

From CNN.com

Drunken-driving deaths fell in 32 states in 2007, the government reported Thursday, but alcohol-related fatalities increased among motorcycle riders in half the states.

Nearly 13,000 people were killed in crashes in which the driver had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08, the legal limit in the United States, or at higher levels.

Overall, alcohol deaths were down nearly 4 percent compared with 2006, when nearly 13,500 people died on the highway.

Conflict over a midwife serving the Amish

From the Christian Science Monitor:

The Amish here in Lancaster County may go to the hospital if they break an arm or need surgery, but when it’s time to give birth they stay home. Usually, they deliver their babies with the aid of a midwife, and the women in this waiting room half-joke that if Ms. Goslin goes out of business, they are through with childbearing.

It appeared to be coming to just that last fall when the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine ordered Goslin to cease and desist assisting her mothers, deeming it “practicing medicine and nurse midwifery without the appropriate licensure.”

Switch to ICD-10 should be very costly

From FierceHealthIT.com

Health IT administrators are far from done in their struggles to implement the new National Provider Identifier number, which has proved to be every bit as troublesome as the industry predicted. But apparently, HHS was determined to raise the angst level further. With its recent announcement that it was pushing for an October 2011 deadline for the industry to switch from ICD-9-CM to ICD-10 codes, health organizations are bracing themselves for millions in additional IT and operational expenses.