Tyler Ophthalmologist Tops List of Texas' Top Medicare Billers

Categories: Healthcare

Opthalmology, apparently, is where the big Medicare money is.
On Wednesday, the federal government released a massive trove of Medicare data showing how much some 880,000-plus U.S. healthcare providers were paid for their services in 2012. Fully mining the data will take months or years, but using the data to compile a list of the top Medicare billers took mere minutes.

Texas doesn't have any villains quite as convenient as Dr. Salomon Melgen, a West Palm Beach ophthalmologist who both received $21 million in Medicare payments and looks vaguely sinister in pictures, but it does have its fair share of doctors and lab that annually bill the federal government for millions of dollars.

The Wall Street Journal, among others, has put the data into a searchable database, which allows sorting by state and city.

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Dallas Anesthesiologist Being Sued Over Deadly Surgery Admits to Texting, Reading iPad During Procedures

Note: The original headline incorrectly stated Dr. Spillers had admitted to using Facebook and texting during Milne's surgery. It has been changed to more accurately reflect his testimony.

.Mary Roseann Milne, 61, checked into Medical City Dallas on April 13, 2011 for an operation to correct an irregular heartbeat. The procedure, an AV node ablation, is routine, at least as far as heart surgeries go, but something went wrong. Ten hours after her surgery began, Milne was pronounced dead.

The family has filed a medical malpractice suit against Medical City and two individual doctors involved in the procedure: surgeon Dr. Robert Rinkenberger and anesthesiologist Dr. Christopher Spillers. It's set to go before a Dallas County jury in September.

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Here's Where Dallas' Uninsured Live

Categories: Healthcare

A significant chunk of America's uninsured population lives in Texas, and a lot of those people live in the Dallas area. That's partly because Texas refused to expand Medicaid, which has left a million-plus people too rich to qualify for government insurance but too poor to get subsidies to buy private plans. Other factors adding to the problem are illegal immigration and a complex stew of demographics, economics and politics that mean the state will continue to have a large number of uninsured even after the Affordable Care Act's March 31 deadline for buying insurance.

So get used to the map above, which was compiled by a Georgia Tech health systems grad student named Kevin Johnson. Johnson took data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 American Community Survey and turned them into heat maps showing the distribution of the uninsured population in each of the 15 largest U.S. cities.

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For Texas Women, Access to Abortion Keeps Dwindling, with No Hope in Sight

Categories: Healthcare

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Last year, Governor Rick Perry called the Texas Legislature to Austin for two special sessions, both focused on passing one of the country's most restrictive abortion laws. The new law, HB 2, put Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis on the map after an 11-hour filibuster. It also began to unravel the ability for women across the state to access safe, legal abortion.

That pace of that unraveling is quickening. Last week, The Austin American Statesman reported that over a third of the state's abortion clinics had closed following the passage of HB 2, leaving only 24 clinics (and counting) in the entire state. And the Rio Grande Valley region made national news last week as the final two abortion clinics for the area, located in McAllen and Beaumont, closed their doors.

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Frisco Just Banned E-Cigarettes in Public Places, But Why?

Categories: Healthcare, News

Electronic cigarettes look like cigarettes. They supply nicotine like cigarettes. Users exhale a puffy cloud like cigarettes. So they must be cigarettes, right?

According to the Frisco City Council, yes. On Tuesday night, its members voted unanimously to ban the use of e-cigarettes wherever traditional cigarettes are banned -- i.e. in most public places.

"I gotta say, I'm just not compelled to view e-cigarettes any different than I do regular cigarettes," said Councilman Bob Allen. "I don't believe I can get to that point."

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Why Are Dallas Hospitals Short on Treatment for Rape Victims?

Categories: Healthcare

Dallas County District Attorney's Office
Dallas Police Chief David Brown and District Attorney Craig Watkins celebrated the opening of the first ever Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program in southern Dallas at Methodist Dallas Medical Center.
Local officials had a big celebration last month when a hospital in southern Dallas finally started offering forensic exams for rape victims.

"Unfortunately, Dallas has a perceived -- and maybe a real -- impression that individuals from the southern sector don't receive services like those in the north," Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said at a news conference. "This program gives us credibility. It gives us the ability to stand up ... and say, 'Because you're from South Dallas, you will be treated just as those individuals from North Dallas.'"

Yet advocates say that even the victims in the north haven't been treated all that great, dealing with sparse services and hospitals that aren't sure where to direct victims who need help.

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3,000 Texans Might Die Without Medicaid Expansion, Study Says

Categories: Healthcare

Scott Beale/Laughing Squid
The good news is, you don't need health care when you're dead.
The folly of Texas Governor Rick Perry's decision to opt out of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion has been well-documented. Billions in federal funds are off the table. More than a million poor adults won't have access to health coverage. Texas businesses will wind up paying an estimated $400 million in tax penalties.

Useful numbers, but none really capture the human toll of Perry's decision. A better figure for that purpose is 3,035, as in the number of people who will die as a result of Texas' refusal to expand Medicaid.

That's the worst-case scenario predicted in an article published Thursday by researchers at Harvard Medical School and CUNY School of Public Health. Best case, it'll be 1,840.

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Parkland's IT Department Is Run by a Racist, Sexist "Redneck Country Club," Former Employees Say

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After spending two years on the brink of shutting down, Parkland Hospital has turned a corner. Things are far from perfect, but the federal government is reasonably confidant that Parkland won't kill you.

That's the medical side of things. According to a trio of nearly identical wrongful termination lawsuits filed on Monday, the IT department remains a mess.

Mark Holloway, an African American network engineer, and Israel Benitez, a Hispanic webmaster, both say they were discriminated against based on their ethnicity.

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Texas Lt. Governor Candidates Agree: Brain-Dead Pregnant Woman Should Still Be On Life Support

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KERA's hour-long debate between the four Republican lieutenant-governor hopefuls was, as expected, a desperate scramble to the right. On issue after issue -- evolution, abortion, immigration -- the candidates studiously avoided any hint of moderation.

Nowhere was that clearer than in their answers to the first question of the day: Should John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth have removed pregnant, brain-dead Marlise Munoz from life support?

Suffice to say the word "erred" came up a lot in reference to Judge R.H. Wallace's order, as did the exhortation to "protect life." All agreed with the basic principle that, so long as her fetus had a heartbeat, Munoz should have been kept alive.

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Fort Worth Hospital Complies With Judge's Order, Removes Marlise Munoz From Life Support

Categories: Healthcare

Update: On Sunday, Marlise Munoz was allowed to die.

According to attorneys for her family, Fort Worth's JPS Hospital removed Munoz, 23 weeks pregnant, from life support at about 11:30 a.m. Her body was released to her husband, Erick Munoz.

The hospital had announced earlier in the day that it would not appeal Judge R.H. Wallace's ruling ordering it to discontinue treatment.

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