In 1986, lawmakers figured they had come up with a way to keep track of bad doctors. That is, making sure a doctor who gets fired from one hospital for wrongdoing or incompetence doesn’t just pop up on the staff of another hospital. What they proposed was a national database. Hospitals would be required to submit the names of any doctors who had their admitting privileges revoked or suspended for 31 days or more. This way, a hospital could easily check a doctor’s background before hiring him or her.
Back then, government and industry officials estimated that U.S. hospitals would report anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 doctors a year.
Since 1990, when the National Practitioner Data Bank went online, hospitals have reported, on average, 650 doctors a year. Nearly 50 percent of all hospitals did not submit a single name to the database in its first 17 years. What does it mean? Are the doctors at these hospitals so skilled as to go almost 20 years without ever making a serious mistake, as well as being morally and ethically beyond reproach?
Not likely. What’s more likely, as Public Citizen outlines in a report released today, is that the there is a serious lack of discipline in this nation’s hospitals and a large number of hospitals that are finding ways not to report their doctors to the national database.
Tomorrow morning, Public Citizen will appear in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on behalf of consumer organizations that have filed objections to the Chrysler bankruptcy. As currently structured, the bankruptcy proposal exempts Chrysler from most of its responsibility and accountability for products sold before the bankruptcy. Victims of poorly designed or defective vehicles would be unable to receive compensation for their injuries. Chrysler is seeking to avoid liability even for injuries and losses that occur after the bankruptcy.
While there are strong legal arguments about why the bankruptcy must be structured in way to protect consumers, there is also a very compelling human argument made by victims such as Jeremy Warriner in the video above.
Yesterday Public Citizen and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act against the Federal Maritime Commission. The dispute dates back to last October, when NRDC tried to get records about the Commission’s unusual decision to investigate and seek termination of portions of programs at two California ports that aimed to reduce truck emissions, called the Clean Trucks Programs. Why the Commission—usually concerned with regulating shipping—took such a keen interest in a program regulating trucks, is a topic of much speculation, and you can read more about NRDC’s efforts to fight for the Clean Trucks Programs here.
However, not only the environment is at stake in this case, so are our government transparency laws. Under FOIA, requesters are supposed to be granted a waiver of all the fees associated with searching for and copying the requested records if the disclosure will further the public’s understanding of the operations of government and is not in the commercial interest of the requester. The Commission denied NRDC a public interest fee waiver, even though NRDC extensively documented how it intended to use the information to inform the public about the Commission’s investigation of the programs.
The climate change legislation that will be debated this week is a huge disappointment. Not only will it prove a boon to energy industries, but it won’t protect consumers and may very well not even curb global warming. The first draft, penned months ago, was on track to accomplish these goals, and we applauded it as a great start. Since then, however, lawmakers have met in secret with representatives of the coal and oil industries and facilitated industry efforts to gut the bill.
The Obama administration got it right when officials released a budget that would auction 100 percent of pollution allowances. As long as pollution allowances are auctioned, the government will have the revenue necessary to mitigate energy price increases through rebates while having money to invest in the sustainable energy infrastructure we need to end our reliance on fossil fuels.
This was further reinforced by President Obama’s selection for the new chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Jon Wellinghoff, who said that “we may not need any” new nuclear or coal power plants because we have yet to harness the capacity of renewables and energy efficiency.
But the House of Representatives has not followed the administration’s lead.
This is Jessica, an intern in Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division. She and the crew over there did this video to show how easy it is to set up an offshore tax shelter. The answer to that questions after a couple calls to attorneys in Panama? Easy. Very easy. Yes, the conversation in the video is real. No, she didn’t actually set the corporation up. But she could have and that’s one of the arguments against a NAFTA-type expansion to Panama. Read more about the issues at our sister blog, Eyes on Trade.