93 posts categorized "Your health"


ALERT: Violent TV may keep kids up -- preventing you from watching violent TV

Warning: This posting is not intended for children younger than 3, most of whom don’t read, but still.

I saw, I came, I sawedA study says that TV programs with violence — this includes virtually every program on television — and even cartoons with violence may be OK for older kids, but the younger crowd gets a bit bothered by them, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In fact, 3 to 5 year old children may not have a good night’s sleep Heart to heart especially when watching something disturbing, such as America’s Funniest Home Videos. (See photo, right)

Michelle Garrison of Seattle Children’s and University of Washington School of Public Health, said a study of 565 families revealed problems. Programs such as “Sesame Street” and “Curious George” were considered safe choices. The study, in the journal Pediatrics was Hmmmsupported, by the National Institutes of Health. See examples below.

“We really see significant improvements in sleep and that included things like decreased night wakings and nightmares, having an easier time falling asleep at night, being less cranky in the morning and just less tired during the day,” Garrison said.


-- Darren Barbee


If you’re chlid is watching this, consider a different kind of muppet.


This, on the other hand, should put the tyke right to sleep.







Texas medical professionals join the felon, fraud and drug addict club

Why not try methadoneYou can’t argue that Texas attracts medical professionals -- not that Melanie French Morrison, RN, had much of a choice.

Morrison, a nurse who used to work in Salina, Kan., had a drug addiction. She got a bus pass to Fort Worth from the Department of Justice following her convictions for tampering with a consumer product and adulterating drugs while caring for patients. She’s spending 36 months behind bars at Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth.

Morrison worked at a nursing facility, where she used her keys to open the narcotics cabinet, siphon off morphine from vials using a syringe and refill them with sodium chloride (AKA normal saline).

A federal court referred to her switcheroo as “reckless disregard,” since it can injure or kill someone. Sodium chloride can be dangerous, Which muppet has the shiv particularly to patients who suffer from congestive heart failure or kidney problems.

This month, Morrison was excluded from participating in federal health care programs. That means she won't be getting taxpayer money any more. Uh, except for housing, feeding and clothing her. 

-- Darren Barbee

As of September, here are the newest Texas members of the federal Exclusions Club:

BARBARA ALGAIER Nursing PARIS License revoked/suspended
ANNETTE BERNAL Nursing AMARILLO License revoked/suspended
KELLY BUNYARD Nursing HUMBLE License revoked/suspended
JAMIE FENTON Nursing LONGVIEW Health care felony, fraud
CARLA GAUSE Unknown ADDISON abuse/neglect conviction
BRENDA HARRIS Equipment HOUSTON Conviction
CYNTHIA MENCHACA Nursing CORPUS CHRISTI License revoked/suspended
MARY MERTINS Nursing HEREFORD License revoked/suspended
ELLA MOORER Nursing GEORGETOWN abuse/neglect conviction
RONALD POULIN Physician ANTHONY Conviction
MARY POWELL Nursing ENNIS License revoked/suspended
DEBRA SPRADLIN Audiology BRYAN Conviction
HOLLY STEVENSON Pharmacy tech MCKINNEY License revoked/suspended
SARAH WEISHEIT nursing KATY License revoked/suspended
SOURCE: LEIE Exclusions database


ATF agents handcuffed by Fast and Furious superiors resolve retaliation claims

Two more ATF special agents troubled by Operation Fast and Furious – one who watched supervisors Drug cartel gun battle ignore fears an officer would slain by the weapons they weren’t allowed to seize – have settled claims they were retaliated against.

Indeed, F&F was halted after a U.S. border agent was later killed by a gun buyer the ATF could have arrested, but was prevented from doing so.

Larry Alt and Olindo J. “Lee” Casa, two of the employees at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms filed retaliation claims with the Office of Special Counsel. The office said Tuesday they had resolved their cases through mediation. All mediation communications are confidential

Casa testified before congress that on many occassions surveillance teams followed gun buyers to the Phoenix area, watched them buy “devastating weapons” including AK-47 style weapons, .50 caliber rifles and pistols.

Holder“On many of those occasions, the surveillance team would then follow the straw purchasers either to a residence, a public location, or until the surveillance team was spotted by the straw purchasers,” Casa told Congress. “But the end result was always the same – the surveillance was terminated ... without interdicting or seizing the firearms.”

Casa said he and other agents warned superiors of something going wrong, but were ignored. On at least a couple of occasions, Casa said he witnessed a special agent ask supervisors if they were prepared to attend the funeral of slain agent or officer killed with one of the purchased firearms.

“Neither one answered or even seemed concerned by the question posed to them,” Casa testified.

The mediation follows the resolution last month of retaliation claims by ATF whistleblower Peter Forcelli.

-- Darren Barbee

Headline of the week (topic, irritable bowel syndrome)

This is either genius, or a terrible, terrible mistake. What looks to be an advertisement  for a clinical trial on a San Antonio radio station's website asks for people, at least 18 years old, to try out.  Digestion made easy

The pitch goes: "You know the feeling well, you’ve felt it before. You need a bathroom – now." 

The odd headline: The ins and outs of irritable bowel syndrome

Yes, we're 11 years old. But we're tall for our age.

-- Darren Barbee


Texas agency directors make big bucks, but audit says some should make more

BishopIt’s comforting to know that at least one state employee will probably be OK when she retires.

Ann S. Bishop, executive director of the Employees Retirement System makes $312,000 (plus a bonus), according to a new report of top state officials’ salaries by the State Auditor’s Office.

Bishop should be good since she’s a “veteran of state government” who served as deputy Comptroller of Public Accounts and the first executive director of the Department of Information Resources.

To be clear, we’re not knocking Bishop, who has a big job managing a $23 billion investment portfolio and manages the Texas Employees Group Benefits Program, which provides health
care coverage to more than 500,000 state and higher education employees, retirees and their families. Gold

But the auditor’s report appears to preemptively rationalize the top salaries of state government employees, noting “it is in the State’s best interest to ensure equitable pay for executive officer positions to help recruit and retain qualified executive officers capable of effectively and efficiently managing state agencies.”

Salaries range from Bishop’s six-figures down to $65,000.

Of course, Gov. Rick Perry some state officials managed to Mansiondraw an annual salary, say $133,000, while also collecting retirement of, uh, oh call it another $92,376.

The audit recommends upping the pay among similar executive officer positions at state agencies. And it does point out some rather strange pay disparities, such as the four executive officers and another four management positions that earned higher salaries than the Health and Human Services Commission’s executive commissioner.

Or that the Department of Public Safety’s executive officer is not among the 30 top management salaries, despite managing an agency protecting Texans and overseeing a $1.5 billion budget.

Still, this is taxpayer money. So how much do, say, the top 26 people (two tied) get paid?

Here’s the list. We threw in a little comparison based on Texas’ 2010 median income of one earner: $38,801.






Percent Median Income

Employees Retirement System Exec. Director $312,000   804%
Department of Transportation Exec. Director $292,500   754%
Treasury Safekeeping Trust CEO $292,000   753%
Teacher Retirement System Exec. Director $270,000   696%
Department of Transportation Finance officer $250,000   644%
Department of Transportation Chief, Strategy and Administration $245,000   631%
Department of Transportation  Chief Planning/Project Officer  $245,000   631%
Teacher Retirement System  Dep. Administrative Officer $231,276   596%
Health And Human Services Commission  Executive Commissioner $230,000   593%
Health and Human Services Commission  Dep. Director $216,652   558%
General Land Office  Dep. Director $216,446   558%
Department of Transportation  Dep. Executive Director $215,000   554%
Cancer Prevention and Research Institute  Executive Director $214,000   552%
Cancer Prevention and Research Institute  Chief Scientific Officer $212,000   546%
General Land Office  Dep. Director $210,244   542%
Teacher Retirement System  Dep. Director $205,200   529%
Department of Transportation  Chief Financial Officer $205,000   528%
Comptroller of Public Accounts  Dep. Comptroller $201,960   521%
General Land Office  Dep. Director $199,997   515%
General Land Office  Dep. Director $199,310   514%
State Auditor's Office  State Auditor $198,000   510%
Employees Retirement System  Dep. Director $196,000   505%
Department of Transportation  Dep. Director $195,000   503%
General Land Office  Division Director $194,480   501%
Office of the Governor Dep. Director $192,975   497%
Department of Transportation Dep. Director $190,000   490%


-- Darren Barbee


Single fed drug program loses enough to buy 700,000 beers -- at ballpark prices

ThanksUnforced error: The nation’s finest federal health care institution, Medicare, could have saved at least $4.6 million in a single quarter of 2012.

But, hey, in this time of breathtaking debt, rampant joblessness and potential fiscal calamity who wants to save money?

And really, who in the federal government is going to miss $4.6 million? That piffling amount would buy a mere 16 Budweisers for every fan who attended a single Texas Rangers home game (based on average attendance; see chart below). Bud

Congress mandates that the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services monitor average Medicare B drug sale prices.

If the drugs cost more than 5 percent of a manufacturer’s average price, Medicare, in gambling terms, craps out. (But, of course, it’s the taxpayers who lose the bet.)

The inspector general found that Medicare exceeded the threshold on 7 percent of drugs it bought.

Had Medicare reimbursements been based on 103 percent of the average manufacturing price,
Headachestaxpayers would have saved all that beer money, just in the second quarter in 2012.

Naturally, the inspector general has told Medicare this information a few times — 21 to be exact. However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has yet to lower reimbursements. The agency does have a proposed rule that calls for price substitutions to occur effective in January 2013.

More good news: Of 63 drugs with partial average manufacturer prices, 10 exceeded the 5 percent cap. Medicare says that partial manufacturer’s prices may not adequately reflect market trends and therefore will not apply its price substitution policy to drugs. 

-- Darren Barbee

How many beers would $4.6 million buy at a Texas Rangers game?


Size BeerCost Beer budget Total beers Avg crowd Beers/fan
16 oz  $6.50  $ 4,600,000             707,692 43,607            16




Pfizer set on stunned: drugmaker to pay $15 million for bribery of foreign officials

PfizerNot now, they've got a headache: Viagra maker Pfizer is taking heat, and paying up, after subsidiaries bribed government officials in Bulgaria, Croatia, Kazakhstan and Russia with millions of dollars.

Pfizer will cough up $15 million to resolve an investigation of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday. (Hopefully, Pfizer makes some kind of cough syrup for that.)

In exchange for the money, Pfizer will enter a deferred prosecution agreement. 

“Corrupt pay-offs to foreign officials in order to secure lucrative contracts creates an inherently uneven marketplace and puts honest companies at a disadvantage,” said Assistant Director James W. McJunkin in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  “Those that attempt to make these illegal backroom deals to influence contract procurement can expect to be investigated by the FBI and appropriately held responsible for their actions.” 

Subsidiary Pfizer H.C.P. Corporation was accused of paying off government officials, including hospital Esteemed Pfizer products administrators, members of regulatory and purchasing committees and other health care professionals, according to court documents. It also and sought to improperly influence government decisions in these countries regarding the approval and registration of Pfizer Inc. products, the award of pharmaceutical tenders and the level of sales of Pfizer Inc. products. 

Pfizer H.C.P. used sham consulting contracts, an exclusive distributorship and improper travel and cash payments to buy influence, according to court documents. The company paid $2 million in bribes from 1997 to 2006 and made $7 million as a result, the justice department said.

Pfizer said the improper payments involved the operations of two of its subsidiaries outside the United Go ahead take the moneyStates, which the company “voluntarily reported to the U.S. government beginning in 2004.”

“We have worked diligently to strengthen our corporate compliance program worldwide,” said Douglas Lankler, executive vice president and chief compliance and risk officer for Pfizer.

In a related matter, Pfizer and its 2009 acquisition Wyeth LLC reached settlements with the Securities and Exchange Commission to pay more than $26.3 million in disgorgement of profits and interest to resolve concerns involving the conduct of its subsidiaries.  Wyeth agreed to pay $18.8 million to resolve concerns involving the conduct of Wyeth subsidiaries.

“There is no allegation by either DOJ or SEC that anyone at Pfizer’s or Wyeth’s corporate headquarters knew of or approved the conduct at issue before Pfizer took appropriate action to investigate and report it,” the company said in a press release.

Pfizer’s Lankler said the company has created “rigorous oversight and accounting mechanisms and pioneered a host of new tools designed to maintain compliance and detect problems before they spread.”

Side note: In addition to making lots and lots of money off drugs, Pfizer was also responsible for saving many lives in World War II. In 1941, the company rushed the manufacture of penicillin to treat Allied soldiers.

-- Darren Barbee





Texas MDs, nurses evaded millions in taxes, still pocket $6.6 billion in tax dollars

Maybe the rich don't always get richer, but it helps if you're a health care provider Cash or Caduceus who can skip multiple tax bills and still get everyone else's tax dollars. 

Medical professionals in Texas, Florida and New York rang up at least $791 million in unpaid federal taxes from 2009 and earlier, but still drank deeply from (and probably splashed around in) the magic federal money geyser. (Unrelated to his post, feel free to look up the definition of this random word.)

About 7,000 tax evaders/Medicaid providers raked in $6.6 billion in Medicaid reimbursements — just in 2009, according to this audit by the Government Accountability Office.

Dr. Al CaponeTheir unpaid taxes are likely understated because it doesn’t include medicos who didn’t file tax returns at all or under report their income. (Typical tax evading MD, Dr. A. Capone, left)

(Fine print: The $791 million doesn't include another $59 million in taxes the medicos ducked during 2010 and 2011, according to the audit.)

The GAO report did not break down state by state information or identify providers, which included doctors, nurses, dentists, hospitals, medical transport companies and others.

Before you think "maybe these medical types are just hard up for cash," consider “Case 14,” an unidentified dentist who took in $300,000 in Medicaid money and owes the IRS $200,000. Dr. Case 14 apparently owned waterfront property and luxury motor vehicles. Isn't it nice to know your money went for something nice?

Another dentist, (what is it with dentists?) received $100,000 in Medicaid money, owed $100,000 in taxes and while saddled with this debt blew money on fine dining, trips, spas, shopping and wine. Drip drip drip

Of the providers reviewed, 40 received $235 million in Medicaid reimbursements in 2009 and had unpaid federal taxes of about $26 million through 2010. (The delinquent taxes ranged from $100,000 to up to $6 million.)

In some instances, providers entered into (and defaulted on) installment agreements with IRS numerous times or sent the IRS bad checks.

Luckily, for the providers, federal law does not prohibit people with unpaid federal taxes from enrolling in or receiving payments from Medicaid. 

The audit did not take into account medical peeps with unpaid federal taxes from the 2010 and 2011 tax periods, and recipients with total unpaid federal taxes of $100 or less.

Still, the nation’s 2009-2010 Medicaid bill was $744 billion. What's a piffling $7 billion here and there? 

-- Darren Barbee

Slow mo: Delayed Texas technology projects took an extra 10 years to finish

WaitingTexas agencies can’t blame budget cuts for this snafu: Of 15 information projects analyzed by the State Auditor’s Office, 10 (67 percent) fell far behind, stalling important projects by a cumulative 9.7 years.

The agencies had the money to do the projects. They just didn’t get them done. The result: overruns cost you an extra $11.7 million.

The top sloth prize goes to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which Sloth developed an e-Business Information System to allow better accounting, fiscal control and elimination of deficiencies within their old financial system.

Oh, the irony! The project meant to keep better track of money was supposed to cost $1.6 million, but delays pumped the bill up 211 percent to $4.9 million. Supposed to finish in 2008, the project crawled to the finish line in October 2010, nearly 26 months late.

Old computersRunner-up was the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, which set out to implement websites and web applications for people with disabilities. DADS may be “committed to providing equal access” to folks, but, hey, it didn’t say when. DADS $5.5 million project mushroomed to $7.7 million and took an additional 21 months to finish.

By the way, getting the job done early does makes a difference. The Department of Family and Protective Services created a database that was delivered about two months early. That saved $1.1 million.

The SAO reported that projects were delayed and costs went wild for several reasons, including forgetting to report state staff salaries and benefits in a major information resources project’s initial cost estimate and subsequent reports.   

See chart below for overruns.

-- Darren Barbee

Agency Original Budget Final Budget Overruns Additional months needed
Commission on Environmental Quality $550,800 $1,173,105 $622,305 4.27
Commission on Environmental Quality $1,107,839 $2,027,216 $919,377 8.42
Department of Aging and Disability Services $5,500,000 $7,698,000 $2,198,000 21.24
Department of Family and Protective Services $1,511,966 $1,244,633 ($267,333) 4.96
Department of Family and Protective Services $2,575,963 $1,468,120 ($1,107,843) -2.37
Department of Transportation $1,986,000 $2,109,505 $123,505 2.99
Department of Transportation $864,250 $920,463 $56,213 10
Health and Human Services Commission $2,636,001 $2,004,881 ($631,120) -11.28
Office of the Comptroller of Public Accounts $7,747,019 $12,531,175 $4,784,156 0
Office of Court Administration $3,500,000 $4,126,053 $626,053 19.04
Texas Education Agency $3,852,000 $4,514,259 $662,259 0
Texas Education Agency $3,852,000 $3,647,796 ($204,204) 0
Parks and Wildlife Department $1,590,041 $4,945,547 $3,355,506 25.91
Texas Workforce Commission $2,281,828 $2,543,445 $261,617 6.05
Texas Workforce Commission $3,203,466 $3,499,474 $296,008 27.92
      $11,694,499 117.15



Army helmet sensors to monitor traumatic brain pounding -- in the NFL

Football helmetsThe U.S. Army uses helmet sensors to measure the impact to a soldier’s head after a concussive event, like an explosion.

So, it's only natural the National Football League wants in on Solider helmet that action.

While gridiron warriors aren’t actually engaged in combat with firearms (for the most part; Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain was recently sentenced for holding a gun to man’s head and firing a shot by his ear) the NFL wants the technology in its player’s helmets.

The helmets would use sensors that evaluate concussive events that could lead to traumatic brain injury, the Armed With Science blog for the Department of Defense reports.

Apparently, the NFL and the Army meet occasionally to swap information on brain injuries and treatment tactics. Lt. Col. Frank Lozano, product manager of soldier protection said head injuries suffered by football players are similar to those suffered by soldiers.

Steve Young concussion 1999What took us by surprise was this quote: “A lot of soldiers are football fans and a lot of football players and teams in the NFL are large supporters of the armed forces,” he said. “So it’s kind of a natural fit.”

Really? That’s the rationale? If only the National Dodgeball League (apparently real) were more on people’s radars, who knows what kind of help those elite players could receive when getting smacked in the noggin by a red ball.

The blog also reports that 58 percent of the more than 2,000 documented cases of brain injuries are Simulated rescue Army soldiers. So far, 45,000 sensor helmets have been ordered for troops, but only about 10,000 helmets have been delivered to troops. (Note: Photo (right) is a simulated rescue operation.)

Just to be clear, as George Carlin pointed out in his classic routine about football vs. baseball, the pigskin is an instrument of war:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! – I hope I’ll be safe at home!

Finally, your downer of the day: The clip (below) from an NFL exhibition game that left Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley paralyzed. He died in 2007.

-- Darren Barbee