Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Following the money

“Never event” not a concern for
Albany’s conflicted politician

By David Baker
Posted Sunday, April 6, 2008

The decision by several health insurance companies to stop paying medical providers for treatment needed following a so-called “never event’ makes all the more disturbing the New York state Health Department’s refusal to take any action over Lisa’s death.

Back in November 2003, just after Lisa had been found in her hospital bed close to death and with a near-zero blood glucose level, I filed a complaint with the department.

Seven months later the department sent me, at my request, a copy of a “summary of professional analysis of care” from an outside organization called IPRO, in which, at the end of just three paragraphs, the unidentified reviewer concluded that “the care rendered appears to be appropriate.”

This care, which IPRO and the department found satisfactory and requiring no action, included about $100,000 worth of treatment over three weeks following one of those “never events” that a growing number of insurance companies say is evidence, in itself, of negligence by the provider. If one of these events occurs, the insurers say, the medical provider must be responsible for it, and the insurer will not pay for any treatment that is needed as a result of the event.

As has been reported here, one of those “never events” is hypoglycemia which occurs while a patient is in the care of the healthcare provider.

Even more disturbing – but sadly not surprising in Albany’s corrupt political culture – was the refusal of numerous legislators to take any interest in conducting an examination of the Health Department’s decision.

Among those politicians were the chairs of both the Senate and Assembly health committees. It was almost a year after I wrote to Sen. Kemp Hannon – and then only after my letter had been mentioned by Fred Dicker on his radio show – that Hannon reacted. And that was only to claim off the air to Dicker that I had been rude to a member of his staff and had refused to give her my telephone number. He never did look into my complaint.

As I later reported, since 1999 Hannon has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the healthcare industry that his committee is supposed to oversee. Several thousand of those dollars have been donated by Northeast Health Inc., the company that operates Samaritan Hospital.

Also benefiting from Samaritan’s generosity are assemblymen Ronald Canestrari, Pat Casale and Robert Reilly, former assemblymen Paul Tonko and Bob Prentiss and senators Neil Breslin and Hugh Farley.

As I said at the time, these people know who they really represent. And its not a helpless hospital patient dying from a lack of basic diabetic care.

A little later Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno’s staff also declined to examine the issue – and that after Karen Crummy, an attorney in his office, had told me several times that she would investigate. But four months after my first conversation with her, a call was returned not by Crummy but by Bruno’s spokesman, who, in a guarded tone, told me that a review might be done, but that I would probably never be told of the result.

And I never was.