Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

ANOTHER KISS FROM THE OKE

( – promoted by OKWatchdog)

Here’s a snippet from Saturday’s issue of the Oke.

As always, the Oke’s editorials speak entirely for themselves.

By any other name…

What’s in a name change? Not much if it’s the newly dubbed “OKWatchdog.”

The Oklahoma Foundation for Consumer & Patient Rights, a trial lawyer front group, says the new name “more clearly reflects” the organization’s purpose, which we would argue is to keep the world safe for trial lawyer enrichment.

OKWatchdog “will be Oklahomans’ eyes, ears and conscience,” among other tasks, its executive director said in a news release. He lists a range of anti-business activities on which the group will concentrate. We continue to wonder why these groups don’t just call themselves what they are.

The Association of Trial Lawyers of America, for example, changed its name to the American Association for Justice, but there remains an American Trial Lawyers Association whose membership includes such luminaries as Gloria Allred, who represented Paula Jones in her sexual harassment case against Bill Clinton.

We presume OKWatchdog will vigorously oppose the agenda of the American Tort Reform Association, which isn’t afraid to call itself what it is.

Jeff Raymond

OKWatchdog

MY GUILTY PLEASURE

( – promoted by OKWatchdog)

I hate to admit the guilty pleasure I had in seeing the state’s metro dailies go at each other recently over the amount of money Tulsa and Oklahoma City hospitals receive for indigent health care.

The Oke started the volley:

“We have advocated for a stop to claims that Tulsa’s been treated unfairly when it comes to indigent-care spending. … This issue shouldn’t be yet another bedlam competition.”

The World responded:

“Oklahoma City facilities are touted as regional destinations for certain types of services, and it’s true they are, in large measure because taxpayers have subsidized those facilities since statehood, making them the premier health-care institutions that they are.”

Anytime the Oke and the World call each other out, I have a smile on my face for the rest of the day. It’s sort of like seeing a rich uncle lose his composure at Christmas because someone mentioned his deadbeat son.

Yet my favorite comment came from State Treasurer Scott Meacham (as quoted in the World):

“The reason Tulsa doesn’t get as much money is because there isn’t a state-owned facility there, which is why they want one.”

Maybe I’m just slow, but that seems like some seriously circular reasoning, coming from a state official.

Digging through my files, I found some interesting stats that shed some light on who visits whom.

In 2005 Integris Southwest Medical Center, Integris Baptist Medical Center, OU Medical Center, Midwest Regional Medical Center, St. Anthony Hospital and Edmond Medical Center saw from 10,276 to 17,991 emergency room visits from each of four Zip codes in the Oklahoma City metro area.

See the source of this information at http://tinyurl.com/5gy872

In Tulsa in 2005, 10 Zip codes generated more than 500 emergency room visits each per 1,000 residents.

See the source of this information at http://tinyurl.com/5d2f22

The upshot: Both cities’ hospitals are busy serving locals, even as they also serve as regional hubs.

Jeff Raymond

OKWatchdog

OKLAHOMA FOUNDATION FOR CONSUMER & PATIENT RIGHTS CHANGES NAME, KEEPS FOCUS

( – promoted by DocHoc)

The Oklahoma Foundation for Consumer & Patient Rights is now OKWatchdog.

As the state’s leading voice for consumers and patients, we think the new name more clearly reflects our purpose.

We intend to be Oklahomans’ eyes, ears and conscience at the Capitol, in communities and in the public forum. What makes us unique is that we are focused on Oklahoma. Ordinary Oklahomans need a voice. Our mission is to give them one.

The name isn’t the only thing to change.

Our action-oriented Web site, www.okwatchdog.org, includes a large collection of consumer information and research, and provides simple ways to get involved. We also have a companion site for cell phones and other mobile devices.

Most of us don’t have the time or knowledge to focus on issues that could impact our well-being. OKWatchdog will continue to provide Oklahoma-specific resources to help people to take charge of their lives.

OKWatchdog appears on popular social networking sites and nonprofit portals. We have profiles on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Change.org, Idealist.org, YouTube and Twitter.  

With our new name, user-friendly Web site and social networking presence, we intend for OKWatchdog to be a one-stop shop for information on abusive insurance companies, identity theft and everything in between.  

Visitors to www.okwatchdog.org can find out how powerful forces seek to cut ordinary Oklahomans out of decisions that affect them and learn how to fight back. They can research topics ranging from automobile safety to the five-year anniversary of lawsuit reform in Texas. They can write letters to the editor and contact their legislators, all with the click of a mouse.

OKWatchdog continues the evolution of consumer advocacy in the state. We began in 2005 as the Oklahoma Center for Consumer & Patient Safety. We became the Oklahoma Foundation for Consumer & Patient Rights this summer.

Our accomplishments over the last three years include:

-Spotlighting legislators’ support for consumer and patient safety during the 2007 and 2008 sessions

-Drawing attention to nursing homes’ reckless practice of not carrying insurance

-Issuing regular white papers, reports and alerts on issues of importance to Oklahomans

-Mobilizing opponents of deep cuts to public services from the Taxpayer Bill of Rights

-Offering an alternative viewpoint to the propaganda of Big Insurance, corporate CEOs and those they control

Hospital patient advocacy continues to be a major initiative for us. According to a landmark 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, 98,000 hospitalized Americans die each year and 1 million more are injured due to preventable medical errors. Other focus areas include identity theft, protection of senior citizens and product safety.

I hope you find our new persona exciting, and I hope you continue to follow and support us.

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, we accept tax-deductible donations on our Web site and Facebook cause.

Jeff Raymond

Executive Director

Texas tort reform not so alluring

( – promoted by DocHoc)

This op-ed appeared yesterday in The Edmond Sun. If you’ve read all there is to read about the presidential race but still need your progressive fix, please read on.

Texas tort reform not so alluring

Jeff Raymond

November 04, 2008 11:56 pm

– The allure of Texas to tort reform backers is unmistakable. It also has proved a red herring.

You’ve probably read about how Proposition 12, Texas’ 10-gallon tort reform, has rejuvenated our neighbor’s health care system and made the state a haven for well-intentioned doctors fleeing runaway juries.

Too bad things aren’t that simple. Nothing gets in the way of a good tale like the truth.

“Five years later, the ($250,000) cap is being credited for slashing liability insurance premiums, boosting the ranks of doctors in the state, and improving medical access to patients,” the American Medical Association crowed last month (See “5 years of tort reform: Lone Star success story,” American Medical News, Sept. 15, 2008).

Yes, tort reform has brought doctors to Texas. They just haven’t flocked to areas that need them most, undercutting what was perhaps supporters’ strongest argument in favor of passing the constitutional amendment.

The Texas Observer chronicled the influx of doctors (See “Baby, I Lied,” Oct. 19, 2007) and made some disturbing findings.

Prior to Proposition 12’s passage 152 counties had no obstetrician. Four years later the number remained the same. Moreover, 49 percent of Texas counties had no obstetrician, neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon, and a number of counties had no physicians.

“Proposition 12, and the far-reaching changes in Texas civil law that it dragged behind it, was built on a foundation of mistruths and sketchy assumptions. The number of doctors in the state was not falling, it was steadily rising,” the newspaper reported, citing Texas Medical Board data.

“There was little statistical evidence showing that frivolous lawsuits were a significant force driving increases in malpractice premiums.

“The campaign’s promise, that tort reform would cause doctors to begin returning to the state’s sparsely populated regions, has now been tested for four years. It has not proven to be true,” the newspaper concluded.

A study in the recent issue of Health Affairs examined county-by-county data to determine how often doctors move, where they go and why they go there (See “The Diffusion Of Physicians,” September/October 2008).

“The overall tendency of movers was to go to places with lower physician-to-population ratios but higher per capita incomes and lower unemployment,” the authors wrote. “These trends, if they continue, may help decrease access to physician care in rural and urban underserved areas.”

Doctors, it turns out, move for many of the same reasons the rest of us move and choose many of the same places.

However, the most important factor in where physicians choose to practice, the authors found, is residency location.

Research shows Oklahoma doesn’t have a shortage of doctors, either.

The Journal Record newspaper (See “Is Oklahoma losing doctors?” April 3, 2008) found 4,787 medical doctors and 880 medical and osteopathic physicians, respectively, practiced in the state in 1997. By 2007 the numbers had risen to 5,718 and 1,324, respectively.

Oklahoma’s mid-2007 population estimate was 3,617,316, Census data show. Its mid-1997 population estimate was 3,372,900. This is a 7 percent increase.

The state’s doctor population grew by 24 percent during the same decade.

If improving access to health care is the goal, tort reform has failed to live up to its promise in the Lone Star State. That’s one distinction we should let Texas keep.

JEFF RAYMOND is executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Consumer & Patient Rights.  

High Court Poised To Gut Consumer Protections

( – promoted by DocHoc)

Americans rely on the Food and Drug Administration to protect them from dangerous drugs and medical devices.

All too often the protections are woefully inadequate.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could give Big Pharma and others a free pass to harm the sick.

Wyeth v. Levine involves a Vermont musician’s loss of an arm from improperly administered anti-nausea drug Phenergan.

The drug’s manufacturer, Wyeth, argues that it shouldn’t be subject to state liability laws because the FDA approved the drug’s use and labeling – a legal concept called preemption.

Should Wyeth prevail, it won’t matter if drugs are later found to be defective, even dangerous; the only thing that will matter is if the FDA signed off on them.

Among the briefs filed in support of Levine is one from current and former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine, the nation’s leading medical publication.

Oklahoma is one of dozens of states to sign a brief supporting Levine.            

Preemption may not sound provocative, but it’s hugely important to people’s safety and to the ever-changing body of knowledge about prescription drug dangers.

Although the Wyeth case involves pharmaceuticals, preemption can affect anything that has differing federal and state standards, from railroad and car-crash safety to medical devices.

Preemption is a radical extension of the Constitution’s supremacy clause. Preemption is so brazen as to be almost unbelievable.

Read a newspaper for a few days and you’ll find examples of the FDA and other agencies failing to protect the public.

The Bush Administration argues that juries can’t be trusted to second-guess federal regulators.  

Well, I’d trust Oklahomans’ common sense over the FDA’s experts on Vioxx, Fen-Phen, Avandia and other drugs that have ruined lives they were supposed to improve. The FDA’s track record doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Drug companies have known about risks associated with their products but have kept data from the FDA, which relies on them for the information it needs to regulate the industry.  

This is the classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse, and one that bears watching.

This won’t be the last time you’ll hear about preemption, and I sincerely hope you don’t ever need the protections you may be on the verge of losing.

Jeff Raymond

Executive Director

Oklahoma Foundation for Consumer & Patient Rights

STOP ADMINISTRATION FROM GUTTING CONSUMER PROTECTIONS

Last-minute changes favor Big Business and are difficult to undo

The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 15 on how the Bush administration, in its last hurrah, is attempting to rewrite a number of federal rules with the goal of blocking product-safety lawsuits by consumers and states.

Apparently going through the normal legislative and regulatory processes is too democratic for the outgoing administration. They’d prefer to cut deals with drug companies than protect Americans from harm.  

Tell the Bush administration to stop this shameful end-run around Congress.

“The administration has written language aimed at pre-empting product-liability litigation into 50 rules governing everything from motorcycle brakes to pain medicine. The latest changes cap a multiyear effort that could be one of the administration’s lasting legacies, depending in part on how the underlying principle of pre-emption fares in a case the Supreme Court will hear next month,” The Journal reported.

Tell John McCain and Barack Obama to respect the legislative process and undo the Bush administration’s last-minute gutting of consumer protections.

Tell your representative and senators to call on the Bush administration to keep Americans safe.  

Pre-emption doesn’t sound sexy, but it’s hugely important to people’s safety. If you took a drug that later was found, after use in the marketplace and scientific research, to be dangerous, pre-emption would protect the manufacturer from being sued simply because it once met minimal federal standards.

In other words, pre-emption supposes that knowledge about product safety can’t change and remains the sole property of federal regulators who often are cozy with the industries they regulate.

Visit http://tiny.cc/vNsdJ and enter your Zip code to find phone numbers for your elected officials and the presidential candidates. Call them to tell them to stop this abuse.  

Jeff Raymond

Executive Director

Oklahoma Foundation for Consumer & Patient Rights

I've reached the big time

( – promoted by DocHoc)

I don’t think we’ll be responding to it, so I’ll keep my rebuttal to myself, but I want y’all to see the editorial The Oklahoman ran yesterday regarding our scorecard and its conclusions.

Using “cherished” is a bit strong. You’ll see in a few paragraphs what I’m talking about. Oh, and Glenn Coffee scored less than 50 percent. Again, keep reading.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Leave me a comment or e-mail me at jraymond@okccps.org.

Jeff Raymond

Executive Director

Oklahoma Foundation for Consumer & Patient Rights

Grade deflation: Group marginalizes lawmaker’s worth

The Oklahoman Editorial

Published: October 2, 2008

The Legislature’s been out of session since late May, but it’s never too late to score a political point by ranking lawmakers, right? An activist group founded by trial lawyers ranked legislators this week on how “right” or “wrong” they were on a range of issues considered important to the group. In our view, the lower the ranking, the better the lawmaker is for business and the average citizen.

Legislative scorecards, rolled out annually by groups all along the political spectrum, are usually good for little more than a one-day splash in the media, no matter who produces them. Voters typically don’t consider the scorecards when going to their polling places.

Only one legislator got a perfect score on ratings released by the Oklahoma Foundation for Consumer & Patient Rights. None scored less than 50 percent. In general, Democrats scored better than Republicans.

Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, was graded at just 66 percent despite being the co-author of at least two bills cherished by the foundation. Steele has done more than almost any lawmaker in recent years to advance the cause of health care for lower-income Oklahomans.

He’s passionate about improving care and lowering the number of uninsured Oklahomans. Apparently, though, he voted the “wrong” way on too many bills to achieve even a “C” average on the scorecard. By “wrong,” of course, we mean bills sought by trial lawyers for their own enrichment.

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