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HHS Secretary gently weaves in tort reform as part of healthcare reform

(NEWS) The tort litigation process of this land is close to potentially being overhauled. And you may not have even noticed.

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Happenings on The Hill

Seven far-reaching bills, supported by the Republicans and vehemently opposed by consumer groups, are now making its way through Congress.

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Colloquially known as “tort reform,” with Mr. Trump in the White House, the prospects of enacting business-friendly litigation looks promising.

But we are short on details.

Tort reform

In his joint address to Congress, President Trump specifically mentioned his support for measures to “implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance.”

This was a direct reference to the Protecting Access to Care Act (H.R. 1215), which caps medical malpractice awards, non-economic damages at $250,000.

In theory, the supports of reform argue that by making liability laws less complex, and cutting out frivolous lawsuits, medical costs shall come down.

Gears in motion

Last month, the Senate confirmed Rep. Thomas Price (R-GA) to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

A staunch opponent of Obamacare, Mr. Price, a former orthopedic surgeon, is expected to implement the President’s reform plan.

In a March 2nd speech accompanying Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary Price called tort reform “defensive medicine” which went wholly unnoticed.

Rockin’ the boat

Critics immediately pointed out two contractions. First, they contend, that there is simply no evidence that liability restrictions lower insurance costs.

Secondly, President Trump’s support for tort reform directly puts him at odds with many conservatives who object to Congress interfering with tort laws, a traditional domain of individual states.

What are implications beyond healthcare?

Anything for the agenda

Does medical liability reform imply a broader civil justice reform agenda?

Will the President approve tort reform bills when they reach his desk?

Joanne Doroshow at the Center for Justice & Democracy in New York, advised against that interpretation.(https://bol.bna.com/trump-seen-as-supportive-of-business-backed-litigation-bills/). Medical malpractice, she said, has “nothing to do with the other bills that exonerate misconduct by large industries, about which he said nothing.”

He gets a bill, she gets a bill, EVERYONE GETS A BILL

A quick glance at the bills, five of them currently in the House, certainly establish their diversity, and non-medical nature.

The bills propose changes that include: provisions to rewrite class-action practice; support defendants resisting cases in plaintiff-friendly state courts; punish attorneys filing bogus claims; seek limits on settlements by the EPA and DOJ; and impose stringent disclosure requirements on asbestos victims claiming compensation.

The President has been entirely silent on these six bills in Congress right now.

Other than President Trump’s medical liability reform comments, and one oblique reference to asbestos, there has been no other speeches, interviews or comments to gauge the President’s views.

Gettin turnt up for tort

Supporters of tort reform, however, seem to be charged up. They are undeterred by President Trump’s specific mention of “medical” litigation reform.

Sherman Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association, told Bloomberg, “we’ll eagerly make the case to the White House and fence-sitters in Congress that, just as meritless litigation makes health care less affordable and accessible, it also undermines economic growth and job creation — two of President Trump’s top priorities.”

However, nothing is certain.

All six bills differ in scope and while they are expected to pass the House, uncertainty in the Senate remains high, where democrats are expected to filibuster some (if not all) of the bills.

Why has President Trump been silent?

A possible explanation is this: because civil litigation puts his administration at odds with its own policy stance.

Corporate America has always been bent on limiting class actions and push arbitration over jury trials.

PresidentTrump is from the business world, and being a subject of many civil lawsuits himself, is perhaps in line with big business’s agenda.

But such a position directly betrays the rights of grassroots America, his biggest supporters. Curtailing ‘trial by jury’ or the right to take a corporation to court will prove unpopular.

Moreover, business-backed litigation would limit the power of states to go after big businesses—another conflict of policy for President Trump, who is a big supporter of strong state powers, as reiterated in the Congress speech.

Huge repercussions

As President Trump likes to often say, this is going to be huge.

What is at stake is the American citizen’s right to take business entities to court (the 7th Amendment) or, alternatively, the freedom from frivolous litigation, depending on where you stand on the issue. Click To TweetMuch remains to be resolved in the coming months. For now, all eyes should be on the House floor.

#Tort

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

Business News

What’s DMT and why are techies and entrepreneurs secretly taking the drug?

(BUSINESS) The tech world and entrepreneur world are quietly taking a psychadellic in increasing numbers – they make a compelling case, but it’s not without risks.

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DMT

Move over tortured artists and festival-goers, psychedelics aren’t just for you anymore. An increasing number of professionals in Silicon Valley swear by “microdosing” psychedelic substances such as lysergic acid diethylamide(LSD) in efforts to heighten creativity and drive innovative efforts.

This probably isn’t a shock to anyone following trends in tech and startups, particularly the glorification of the 8-trillion hour workweek (#hustle). But business owners, entrepreneurs, and technologists are also turning to other hallucinogens to awaken higher levels of consciousness in hopes of influencing favorable business results.

Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is growing in popularity as business leaders and creatives flock to Peru or mastermind retreats to ingest the drug. It exists in the human body as well as other animals and plants. In his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Dr. Rick Strassman says “this ‘spirit’ molecule provides our consciousness access to the most amazing and unexpected visions, thoughts and feelings. It throws open the door to worlds beyond our imagination.”

The substance is commonly synthesized in a lab and smoked, with short-lived effects (between five to 45 minutes, however, some say it lasts for hours).

Traditionally, however, it is extracted from various Amazonian plant species and snuffed or consumed as a tea (called ayahuasca or yage). The effects of DMT when consumed in this manner can last as long as ten hours. Entrepreneurs are attracted to the “ayahuasca experience” for its touted ability to provide clarity, vision and inventiveness.

Physical effects are said to include an increase in blood pressure and a raised heart rate. Users report gastrointestinal effects when taken orally, commonly referred to as the “purge.” The purging can include vomiting or diarrhea, which makes for interesting conversation at the next company whiteboarding session.

Users are subject to dizziness, difficulty regulating body temperature, and muscular incoordination. Users also risk seizures, respiratory failure, or falling into a coma.

DMT can interfere with medications or foods, a reason why many indigenous tribes that work with it also follow specific dietary guidelines prior to ingestion. Not paying attention to diet or prescription medication prior to consuming ayahuasca or DMT can lead to the opposite of the intended effect, potentially even causing trauma or death.

So why the hell are people putting themselves through this ordeal?

Many claim profound mental effects, often experiencing a transformative occurrence that provides clarity and healing. Auditory and visual hallucinations are common, with reports of geometric shapes and sharp, bold colors. Many report intense out-of-body experiences, an altered sense of time and space or ego dissolution (“ego death”).

Studies have indicated long-term effects in people who use DMT. Some report a reduction in symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Subjects in an observational study showed significant reductions in stress after participating in an ayahuasca ceremony, with effects lasting through the 4-week follow-up period.

Subjects also showed improvements in convergent thinking that were still evident at the 4-week follow up. People who consume DMT generally chronicle improvements in their overall satisfaction of life, and claim they are more mindful and aware after the experience.

It’s important to note that dying from ayahuasca is rarely reported, but that doesn’t rule out the risk. It’s also illegal in the states, explaining why groups flock to Peru to visit licensed ayahuasca retreats or why technologists buy DMT on the dark web to avoid detection.

For those considering a DMT journey (and we don’t recommend it based on the illegal nature and health risks), it’s critical to gain a full understanding of the potential risks prior to consumption.

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Business News

The race is on to develop the moon – a new private industry is born

(BUSINESS NEWS) Opportunity abounds as our world expands to the moon and to other planets, and the private sector is the fuel behind the expansion.

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1979 was the last time a human being (let alone an American) set foot on the moon. During the Cold War, the space race to our nearest celestial body drove scientific research and government funding to put the Apollo 11 crew on a rock some two hundred and forty thousand miles away from our humble Earth’s surface.

Ten years later, NASA stopped sending missions, and worldwide interest in lunar explorations fizzled out… until now. Now there are new players involved.

NASA has announced its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to contract nine American companies to develop reusable rockets, robotic landers, and rovers for lunar missions in the 2020s.

The purpose of these explorations is to mine the moon for precious resources and water, to conduct long-term lunar science, and to eventually set up a permanent base.

Here are the partners: Astrobiotic Technology Inc., Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace Inc., Intuitive Machines LLC, Lockheed Martin Space, Masten Space Systems, Inc., Moon Express, and Orbit Beyond.

The combination of national agency establishment and private industry innovation will help decrease the steep price tag that has cancelled and/or made difficult many a space mission. Currently, international collaborations are required since the large cuts in government spending to the space programs.

For example, Russian rockets help get American astronauts to the International Space Station. The Chinese lander, Chang’e-4, which successfully landed on the dark side of the moon in January, had partnerships with the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and Germany. It’s a huge team effort for these projects to work. If the U.S. is able to keep its operations domestic and between private entities, opportunity for competition arises, driving down costs.

Sounds great, right?

More chances for everyone to get to the moon. The what?

The next logical step is the commercialization of lunar travel and mining. Solar energy could be collected and beamed back to Earth, and thanks to the Moon’s weak gravity, a permanent base can be used to launch further space explorations into our solar system. An entirely new market will open up, allowing more opportunities for people around the world to join in a new space race.

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Business News

How the Lean concept can have the biggest impact on your bottom line

(BUSINESS) Using the Lean business concept and asking the non-sexy question of “What’s dumb around here?” your business will outpace your competitors in no time.

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Entrepreneurs love solving problems. That’s what they’re good at doing. In fact, the more complex, difficult and messy the problem, the more the entrepreneur will enjoy the challenge. Entrepreneurs are especially good at solving problems that nobody knew were there. Think about Steve Jobs: He knew that we needed a pocket MP3 player before we even knew what it was.

While entrepreneurs are coming up with the next “big” thing, we need the non-entrepreneurs in our organizations focused on solving the small problems in our company with the same enthusiasm. Imagine if every one of your team members were consistently looking for opportunities to improve your systems, processes and service delivery. Those subtle changes made in the non-sexy parts of the business usually have the biggest impact on the bottom line.

This is a business concept called Lean, in which a company changes their processes to create the most benefit to the customer using the least amount of resources possible. Lean is commonly used in the manufacturing industry, but its principles can be used in any business to change the way of thinking and doing things.

I recently witnessed a great example of how Lean principles were used to improve one of my clients, LuminUltra – a leading provider of microbiological testing hardware, software and services. The company serves industries that need to know quickly and accurately what’s living in their water. At a recent quarterly planning session at the LuminUltra offices in Fredericton, Canada, COO Charlie Younger shared a powerful story about the company’s manufacturing facility and challenging the status quo.

During the expansion of the company’s manufacturing facility, one of the team members was lamenting to Charlie about how much time it took to complete a lengthy step of the manufacturing process – one specific quality check that was very time-consuming. He remarked that in the history of the company they never had a single machine fail the test. Charlie’s first thought was, do they even need to perform this specific test again?

After more discussion with colleagues, the team realized that the other quality checks performed earlier in the manufacturing process would always identify a defective unit. With this knowledge, the manufacturing team asked for permission to perform minimal testing to still provide assurance with less work. When presented with the information, the company leadership agreed that it was a great idea and would save time and money as well as improve the employee experience. But the bigger question was: Why hadn’t anyone ever questioned this lengthy step of the manufacturing process before?

Charlie, having run Lean programs in the past, has seen this issue before: People continue to do what they’ve always done even if they think there is a better way. He thought this would be a great opportunity to use a fun, simple but elegant technique to capture other status quo breakers – in other words, he decided to use the same principles for changing the company’s production process to make other company decisions.

With that, he posted a whiteboard in the manufacturing room with the title “What’s Dumb Around Here?” and encouraged team members to capture possible “dumb things” to add to it. These topics are discussed and vetted during their Lean process meetings to determine if they can be improved.

When I discussed the new process with Charlie, he noted, “First, you have to create an environment where people are willing to question the status quo. We have always been highly focused on quality and accuracy, so the team thought it was outrageous to openly question a quality check we had been performing for years.”

He continued, “You have to help your management team be open to receiving ideas that might seem crazy and not overreact to the suggestions. Instead, simply ask them to explain their logic. More often than not, the front line knows a better way to do things but does not know how to navigate the change. The beauty of using Lean techniques is that you now have an easy navigation path to discuss, approve and roll out changes. Suddenly, you have an energized front line solving problems with minimal involvement from management – how great is that?”

While LuminUltra continues to grow their product line and expand into new markets, it expects that its implementation of Lean principles will help it make subtle but important modifications to processes that will positively affect its bottom line. The CEO, Pat Whalen, remarked, “If we can produce our products faster and more cost effectively and get them into the hands of our customers faster, we can have an even bigger impact on the water sector with our microbiological monitoring products. I need all of our team members thinking how we can improve every single day. The water sector needs us.”

Every visionary, big-thinking entrepreneur needs a team that challenges the status quo. How are you encouraging your team members to identify, “What’s Dumb Around Here?”

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