Federal Judge Finds Health Insurer Discriminated Against Patients with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders

In a recent decision out of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Chief Magistrate Judge Spero found that United Behavior Health, a unit of UnitedHealth Group, created policies designed to discriminate against patients with mental health issues and substance abuse disorders. In finding that the insurer violated its fiduciary duty, Judge Spero described their guidelines as having been “infected” by financial incentives that were created to limit access to care.

Judge Spero also explained that the policies emphasized addressing acute symptoms as opposed to treating underlying conditions. Once the acute conditions were treated, the health insurer would reduce or deny services. According to a New York Times article reporting on Judge Spero’s decision, patients were denied coverage as soon as they became stable. In one instance, a patient struggling with substance abuse died after he was forced to leave the facility where he was receiving treatment because the health insurer denied coverage.

These cost-saving policies are not unique to UnitedHealth. Many insurance companies employ similar tactics to save money at the expense of patient lives. The attorneys at Abramson, Brown & Dugan have a successful track record representing patients who were injured after their insurer denied coverage. If you or a loved one has been harmed as a result of coverage denials, contact one of our experienced attorneys for a free consultation.

Electronic Health Records from a Doctor’s Perspective

In a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “What Your Doctor Isn’t Allowed to Tell You,” Dr. John Levinson, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, explained why “many doctors consider [electronic health records] a pain in the neck,” highlighting the issues with electronic health records (EHR) and the obstacles precluding the improvement of these systems.

One of the problems Dr. Levinson cites is the poor usability and nonintuitive interfaces of the EHRs and several studies have found an association between patient harm and these types of system related errors. For example, confusing displays and default settings for medications have led to patients receiving incorrect doses or the wrong medication altogether.  Moreover, to comply with the Hitech Act—the law that initiated the shift to electronic records—EHRs must be used “for the collection of very specific diagnosis and treatment data” which is “irrelevant to the care of individual patients.”

Although Dr. Levinson believes these challenges can be overcome, EHR vendors that have “overwhelming market power…insert gag clauses into their contract with hospitals” which has “prohibited the free exchange of information—including discussion of safety-related issues.” Consequently, doctors have not had the “same uncensored academic freedom with regard to EHRs” that they have to improve other imperfect medical interventions.

While the system-related errors discussed in the article pose a significant risk to patient harm, user errors by doctors and other health care professionals employing the EHRs also contribute to EHR-related harm. For more information about EHRs and their increasing association with medical malpractice, see our article and blog posts on these issues.

EHR errors continue to harm patients every day. The attorneys at Abramson, Brown & Dugan have vast experience handling medical malpractice claims in virtually every aspect of medicine. If you or someone you know is a victim of EHR related errors or other medical practice, please contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights.

Abramson, Brown & Dugan Attorney, Holly Haines, Receives Phillip Hollman Award for Gender Equality

Abramson, Brown & Dugan is proud to announce that attorney Holly Haines has received the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Phillip Hollman Award for Gender Equality, which was established in honor of Judge Hollman’s advocacy for gender equality in the legal system. The award is given to an attorney that exhibits a dedication to promoting respect and fair treatment towards all members of the judicial system, seeks to promote gender equality through leadership and educating others on such issues, and has taken the initiative in matters of gender equality and by her actions and words has been a role model in this area. Holly is the sixteenth attorney to win this award and joins an impressive list of recipients that includes former Chief Justice Dalianis and Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Hicks. Holly’s recognition as the Hollman Award winner and her tireless advocacy exemplifies the commitment to justice exhibited by all the attorneys at Abramson, Brown & Dugan. If you or a loved one has been harmed as a result of medical malpractice, a motor vehicle incident, or some other negligence, please contact Holly or one of our other experiences attorneys for a free consultation.

Abramson, Brown & Dugan Attorney, Nick Abramson, named to New Hampshire Union Leader’s prestigious 40 Under Forty List

Abramson, Brown & Dugan is proud to announce that Attorney Nick Abramson has been named to the 2019 New Hampshire Union Leader’s 40 Under Forty List.  Now in its 18th year, the list recognizes the state’s top political and community leaders under the age of forty, who have achieved professional and volunteer accomplishments within the state.  Past lists have included some of New Hampshire’s most prominent and successful young professionals, including former U.S. Senator John Sununu, Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter, and Olympic gold medalist skier Bode Miller.  Nick’s recognition as one of the state’s influential young professionals exemplifies the quality of legal services provided at Abramson, Brown & Dugan.  If you or a loved one has been harmed as a result of medical malpractice, a motor vehicle accident, or some other negligence, please contact Nick or one of our other experienced attorneys for a free consultation.

Abramson, Brown & Dugan Ranked in 2019 Best Law Firms List

Abramson, Brown & Dugan has again been named to the U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” list for 2019. The firm has been recognized for this honor for many years. The firm received Metropolitan Tier 1 Rankings in Manchester in the practice areas of Medical Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs and Personal Injury Litigation — Plaintiffs.

Firms included in the 2019 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from both clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.

Additionally, five attorneys from the firm were recently selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2019 Edition for their work in the practice areas of Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury and Product Liability on behalf of injured plaintiffs.

Abramson, Brown & Dugan is an award-winning medical malpractice and serious injury law firm recognized by its peers for excellence in client advocacy and precedent setting legal practice. The lawyers at Abramson, Brown & Dugan have won more medical malpractice settlements and verdicts than any other law firm in New Hampshire.

Advanced Brain Imaging Technology May Provide Doctors More Time to Treat Strokes

New research indicates that doctors may have more time to effectively respond to ischemic strokes. Strokes represent the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, killing 142,142 people in 2016. Approximately 85% of the 800,000 people that suffer strokes every year experience an ischemic stroke.

Two studies recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggest that doctors may have up to 1624 hours to save threatened brain tissue from a blockage in a major blood vessel leading to the brain. Prior to the new findings, medical professionals believed that endovascular thrombectomy, the surgical removal of the clot, was only effective if performed within 6 hours after the onset of the stroke.

Though some brain tissue dies immediately after a stroke begins, collateral blood vessels supply blood to a larger area of the brain that is deprived of oxygen, providing more time for doctors to clear the blockage and save the endangered brain tissue. Advanced CT imaging and MRIs can estimate how much brain tissue has been irreversibly damaged by the lack of oxygen and what brain tissue is salvageable. The advanced imaging techniques allow doctors to better identify the patients who will respond well to endovascular treatment.

The studies have upended much of what the medical community previously understood about strokes. Accordingly, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association have published new guidelines for the management of patients with acute ischemic stroke. The guidelines recommend a 24-hour window for clot removal and also expand eligibility for rtPA, a clot dissolving drug used to treat ischemic strokes.

Strokes can be lethal and prompt treatment is necessary for survival. Despite the increased window of opportunity to treat patients with ischemic strokes, healthcare professionals continue to provide negligent medical care to stroke patients. The attorneys at Abramson, Brown & Dugan have a successful track record representing stroke victims and their families in medical negligence actions. Contact one of our experienced attorneys today for a free consultation if you or a loved one has been harmed by stroke-related malpractice.