Business & Economy
Medical Malpractice Reform Grants Diverted to Other Research PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 15:13

Top Republican Judiciary Committee Members Question Obama Administration’s Commitment to Medical Malpractice Reform


WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch are concerned that the Obama administration has diverted tens of millions of dollars intended for research on malpractice reform to other forms of research.


In a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, the members point to a September 9, 2009 address to Congress where President Obama announced an initiative to address the rising costs of health care associated with medical malpractice.


The members wrote, “Frivolous lawsuits, the high cost of malpractice insurance and excessive damages awards are dragging down our health care system…However, the AHRQ’s (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) description of the research being funded (through the President’s initiative) does not mention, much less emphasize, reforms to medical malpractice laws, as was clearly implied by the President’s speech.”


The letter specifically calls attention to the fact that none of the $23.2 million awarded has gone to researching or implementing “traditional” medical malpractice reforms and that it appears that all of the research funded by the AHRQ is aimed at proving the obvious: as the number of adverse events declines, the number of malpractice lawsuits also declines.


The letter goes on to ask questions about why the grant program has not done what the President publicly committed to do with the money, which is to try to move forward on medical malpractice reform.  It also asks for an accounting and justification of the way that the money has been spent.


Here is a copy of the text of the letter to Sebelius.


April 3, 2012

Via Electronic Transmission

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius


Department of Health and Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, DC 20201


Dear Secretary Sebelius:


We are writing to express our concerns with the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants being funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).


On September 9, 2009, President Obama, in a speech to a joint session of Congress on health care, directed you to move forward on an initiative aimed at reducing health care costs.  Specifically, he stated:

…, many in this chamber – particularly on the Republican side of the aisle – have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs.  So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine.  I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues.  It's a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.

(Emphasis added).

On June 11, 2010, pursuant to the President’s orders, the HHS, through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), awarded $23.2 million to fund demonstration and planning projects.  The AHRQ’s press release confirmed that the “grants [we]re part of the patient safety and medical liability initiative that President Obama announced during a September 9, 2009, address to a joint session of Congress.”[1] Specifically, the AHRQ has funded seven demonstration grants for a total amount of $19.7 million and 13 planning grants for a total amount of $3.5 million.  The demonstration projects are scheduled to take three years to complete and the planning projects are scheduled to take one year to complete.  According to the AHRQ, the projects are supposed to allow States and health care systems to develop, implement and evaluate medical liability models that “(1) put patient safety first and work to reduce preventable injuries; (2) foster better communication between doctors and their patients; (3) ensure that patients are compensated in a fair and timely manner for medical injuries, while also reducing the incidence of frivolous lawsuits; and (4) reduce liability premiums.”[2]

Frivolous lawsuits, the high cost of malpractice insurance and excessive damages awards are dragging down our health care system.


The goal of “traditional” medical malpractice reforms is not to hinder meritorious lawsuits, but rather to reduce the incidence of frivolous lawsuits, inflated awards and inflated attorneys’ fees.  Generally speaking, traditional malpractice reforms seek practical solutions to combatting frivolous lawsuits, such as caps on punitive damages, caps on noneconomic damages and limits on the percentage of an award that can be taken by a plaintiff’s attorney under a contingency fee agreement.  Thus, traditional reforms are necessarily aimed at dealing with the medical system as it exists and influencing the behavior of lawyers and courts by altering legal parameters--substantive and procedural.  Correspondingly, research on traditional reforms should be aimed at assessing the effects of specific legal changes on claims, lawsuits, awards and settlements, either through mathematical models, simulated jury studies or real data.


However, the AHRQ’s description of the research being funded does not mention, much less emphasize, reforms to medical malpractice laws, as was clearly implied by the President’s speech.  Indeed, it does not appear that any of the entities that have received the $23.2 million in grants have the expertise necessary to examine the effects of changes in substantive legal standards and procedural rules on the rate of malpractice claims, lawsuits, and awards.


President Obama’s September 9, 2009 speech included a reference to “demonstration projects” considered during President George W. Bush’s administration.  The day after the President’s speech, Tevi Troy, who served as the Deputy Secretary of the HHS, during the Bush Administration, responded to President’s Obama’s statement.[3] Mr. Troy explained the nature of the demonstration projects considered during the Bush administration.  In particular, he explained the limited purpose of those projects and the fact that they would not solve the crisis created by frivolous lawsuits.  Mr. Troy’s article also made it clear that “reducing the incidence of costly and ineffective medical malpractice lawsuits was a high priority of the [Bush] administration.”


The President’s speech gave the clear impression that taxpayers’ monies would be spent, in significant part, on projects related to “traditional” medical malpractice reforms.  Contrary to that clear impression, it appears that none of the $23.2 million awarded has


gone to researching or implementing “traditional” medical malpractice reforms.  In fact, it appears that all of the research funded by the AHRQ is aimed at proving the obvious:  as the number of adverse events declines, the number of malpractice lawsuits also declines.


We are concerned that these developments do not fulfill the President’s commitment to move forward on medical malpractice reform.  Accordingly, please respond to the following requests for information:


1.      Explain how the HHS’ spending $23.2 million on studying “nontraditional” liability reform fulfills the President’s promise that his administration would examine a “range of ideas,” including the “traditional” malpractice reforms noted above and advocated by Republican Members of Congress?


2.      Do you agree that the projects funded by the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants are not researching “traditional” malpractice reform, but rather are exploring “nontraditional liability reforms”?[4] If you disagree, explain the basis for your disagreement in detail.  Also, identify which projects are researching “traditional” malpractice reforms and how much from the $23.2 million in grants is being spent on studying “traditional” malpractice reforms.


3.      Do you agree that the AHRQ is not the most qualified agency to undertake or oversee research related to “traditional” malpractice reforms?  If you disagree, explain in detail how the AHRQ is the most qualified agency within the federal government to undertake or oversee research related to “traditional” malpractice reforms.


4.      How, if at all, will the results of each of the 20 demonstration and planning projects directly help to reduce the incidence of frivolous lawsuits and reduce high malpractice insurance premiums, as represented by the AHRQ?  Also, if a project will have no direct impact on reducing frivolous lawsuits and insurance premiums expressly acknowledge that fact.


5.      Explain in detail how the results of each of the 20 Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning projects will directly benefit American taxpayers.  If American taxpayers will benefit from the results of these projects, when will those benefits be seen?


6.      Explain in detail how the results of each of the 20 projects will directly contribute to lowering health care costs, as stated by the President?


7.      Describe in detail how the HHS and/or the AHRQ will utilize the information generated by each of the 20 Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning projects?


8.      Is each of the 20 Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning projects unique or are they similar to previous studies?  If any of the current projects are similar to previous studies, explain the HHS’s justification for funding that project or projects?


9.      When was it decided that the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants would fund research of “nontraditional liability reforms,” as opposed to “traditional” malpractice reforms?  Who made that decision?  If it was a group decision, identify all of the individuals who participated in the group.


10.  Did anyone other than an employee of the federal government participate (in any manner whatsoever) in the drafting of the requests for proposals issued in connection with the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants?  If so, identify the individual(s) and the group he or she was representing.  Also, if applicable, set forth in detail the substance and nature of the individual’s participation.


11.  Did anyone other than an employee of the federal government participate in the selection of any of the recipients of the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants?  If so, identify the individual(s) and the group he or she was representing.  Also, if applicable, set forth in detail the substance and nature of each individual’s participation.


12.  Is one of goals or purposes (official or unofficial) of the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants to produce studies that will discredit or counter “traditional” malpractice reforms?


13.  Is the HHS or any other agency of the federal government currently conducting, participating in or funding research, the (official or unofficial) purpose of which is to discredit or counter “traditional” malpractice reforms?  If so, set forth the details of each such project, including who will conduct the research and who will oversee it.


14.  In addition to the $23.2 million being spent on the demonstration and planning projects, another component of the initiative ordered by President Obama is an evaluation project.  JBA/RAND was awarded $2 million for the evaluation project.  According to the AHRQ, the $2 million has been “allocated to evaluate the overall knowledge that is gained from this initiative.”[5]


(a)    Explain in detail the substance and goals of the evaluation project and explain why it is necessary.


(b)   Are salaried federal employees at the AHRQ or in another unit of the HHS capable of understanding and evaluating the results of the demonstration and planning projects?  If so, why weren’t they assigned the task of conducting the evaluation project or its equivalent?  If they are not capable, explain how the HHS and the AHRQ will be able to work with any of the information generated by the projects.


(c)    How, if at all, will the results of the evaluation project directly benefit American taxpayers?  If American taxpayers will benefit from the results of the evaluation project, when will those benefits be seen?


If the HHS and/or the AHRQ possess documents relating to the subject matter of any of the foregoing questions, provide copies of those documents.


We ask that you provide written answers and documents by May 3, 2012.






________________________       ________________________

Charles E. Grassley                       Lamar Smith

Ranking Member                         Chairman

Senate Judiciary Committee                      House Judiciary Committee





Orrin G. Hatch                         

Ranking Member                        

Senate Finance Committee



[1] AHRQ Press Release, “HHS Announces Patient Safety and Medical Liability Demonstration Projects:

Funds Allocated to Develop, Implement, and Evaluate Patient Safety Approaches and Medical Liability Reform Models” (June 11, 2010) (available at

2 Id.

3 Tevi Troy, “Med Mal Pal?,” Critical Condition, National Review Online’s Healthcare Blog (Sept. 10, 2009)(available at

4 See Allen Kachalia & Michelle M. Mello, New Directions in Medical Liability Reform, 364 N. Engl. J. Med. 1564 (Apr. 2011) (available at (acknowledging the definition of “traditional” medical malpractice reforms and confirming that the AHRQ’s demonstration and planning projects are studying “nontraditional liability reforms.”).

5 Carolyn M. Clancy, AHRQ Commentary, “Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform: Putting the Patient First” (available at 

Governor Quinn Convenes First Meeting of Illinois Export Advisory Council PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 15:12

Group Will Develop Recommendations to Increase Trade Opportunities and Business Investment in Illinois


CHICAGO – April 3, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today convened the first meeting of the Illinois Export Advisory Council. As part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to strengthen the Illinois economy and create jobs, the group will work with the Governor’s office and recommend strategies to increase trade and business investment in Illinois. Governor Quinn announced the group as part of his growth strategy during his 2012 State of the State Address.


“We have brought together some of the most successful business and economic leaders in the country with the single mission of advancing Illinois’ growth in the global economy,” Governor Quinn said. “Illinois goods and services are among America's best, and our council will bring that message to the world.”


Following the meeting, the Governor and members of the council called on Congress to pass the four-year reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) and raise the limit on Ex-Im’s loan portfolio. The Ex-Im Bank has financed exports since 1934, but could close in May without the reauthorization. Over the past five years, the bank has assisted more than 280 Illinois companies, 67 percent of which are the small- and medium-sized businesses that are crucial to Illinois’ economic growth.


Chaired by Navistar Chairman and CEO Daniel C. Ustian, the Council will work to increase exports by providing recommendations on state and federal policies and programs, with the goal of maximizing Illinois’ competitive strengths in the international marketplace. Council members will also serve as international ambassadors for Illinois. Members will work to promote Illinois firms and the inherent advantages Illinois can offer countries seeking trade opportunities. The group’s initial discussions today centered on Illinois’ current trade landscape, opportunities to expand trade, and diverse strategies to drive export growth and open up more global markets to Illinois companies.


The council consists of 21 top Illinois CEOs and private sector leaders that drive international trade for Illinois (complete listing is attached).


“Creating the environment for Illinois business to grow requires trade policies and practices that make it easy to access the expanding global marketplace,” said Ustian. “Today’s meeting is a great example of the public and private sectors coming together for a common goal.  We now have a robust structure in place to gather input from Illinois businesses – from the smallest start-ups to the Fortune 500 – and will move forward with our work to increase exports from Illinois throughout the world.”


Governor Quinn has been one of Illinois’ most active governors when it comes to promoting Illinois on the world stage, recently returning from an economic trade mission to Belgium where he met with key business and economic leaders from countries within the European Union. Also last month, he attended the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) trade show, which is the leading foodservices and

hospitality event in Canada, to promote Illinois’ foodservices industry, as well as tourism and life sciences industries. The Governor also led a trade mission to China last fall that resulted in $370 million in new business agreements for Illinois-based companies.


Next week, Governor Quinn will travel to Washington D.C., where he will meet with Brazil President Rousseff and nine governors from Brazil. The Governor will lead a trade mission to Brazil later this year.


Governor Quinn has set an ambitious goal for Illinois to double exports by 2014. Illinois saw a $14.5 billion increase in exports in 2011, representing a nearly 30 percent increase over 2010, which was nearly double the nation’s average growth of 16 percent. January 2012 represented a 12 percent increase over the same period in 2011, compared to the national average of 7.4 percent. Illinois is the sixth largest exporting state in the nation and ranks number one between the coasts for exports and foreign direct investment. There are nearly 1,600 foreign firms in Illinois employing more than 323,000 Illinois residents.


The Governor’s aggressive focus on harnessing and promoting the strength of Illinois companies abroad will have a significant impact on job creation at home.  According to the latest U.S. Department of Commerce estimates, reaching Governor Quinn's goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014 will result in the addition or retention of nearly 230,000 jobs in Illinois.


More information about Illinois trade and business opportunities can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website at




How to Build a Better Mousetrap with Social Media PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 12:06

Ever play the game Mouse Trap? The goal is to build a contraption that’s set into motion when a player turns a crank. The crank spins gears that push a lever that smacks a boot that kicks a bucket that spills a marble that rolls down a chute, hits a pole … well, you get the idea.

In the end, it catches a mouse – if you’re lucky.

Seeing how media has evolved reminds me of Mouse Trap. Get a mention in a newspaper article and find an online link to share on Twitter. Your followers retweet it to their followers, who post it on Facebook, where someone finds it and mentions it on a talk-radio fan page and, before you know it, you’re a guest on a show!

Of course, that’s a simplified scenario with a dream outcome, but it gives you the picture.

Connecting these different platforms integrates your publicity with social media.  At EMSI Public Relations (, we have Jeni Hinojosa, our Social Media Campaign Manager, turning the crank.  She writes and posts blogs and comments, and tweets updates, on behalf of clients to build a large, credible following for them.  I asked her to share a couple of the ways she has spread our clients’ messages and to give you a few tips for handling your own social media.

Jeni, by the way, has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology with a specialty in social media. She studied the “socialsphere,” how it evolved into its own subculture and how we interact with it. In short, she knows how it works – and she knows how to work it.

Here’s what she wrote:

People who casually use social media may send a few Tweets, update their Facebook status and write a weekly blog post. They connect with people whose content they’re interested in: family and friends, co-workers, fellow hobbyists, groups with shared interests or causes.

If you have serious goals, however, such as building an audience for marketing purposes, you need to do all of that and more. One strategy I use for our clients is generating “third-party conversations.” Instead of simply posting on our clients’ own social networking sites, I visit blogs, websites and fan pages of people with similar interests. I comment on their content in hopes of engaging their audience in a conversation that ultimately brings new traffic to our clients’ websites.

Here’s a for instance: We have a client whose message involves maintaining healthy romantic relationships. I found a great article on this topic and shared it with a comment on other sites.  The article prompted conversations and I stayed involved in the discussion.  When it seemed appropriate, I shared a link to our client’s blog. In this case, she got new followers on Facebook and Twitter through that one action.

Another strategy I use is promoting our clients when they’re featured in traditional media, such as newspapers, radio and TV, which all seem to have an online presence. We recently had a client who was also on board for our talk radio campaign. I promoted her upcoming interviews to her friends and followers.  Then I visited the stations’ websites for links to their Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. I joined their networks, friended their friends, and plugged the upcoming interviews there, too, e.g. “I’m so excited to be chatting with host’s name here on Friday about topic here.”

As a result, this client made a lot of new connections among the stations’ listeners.

These are all strategies anyone can use; all they require is time and imagination. To help ensure your success, here are some tips:

Don’t over-promote yourself. That’s the No. 1 rule. People are turned off by those who seem interested only in selling a book or product. A good rule of thumb is to make sure 80 percent of your content is light, interesting, informative or fun.

Don’t bury your followers in an avalanche of content. Limit Facebook status updates and Tweets to three or four a day.

People new to social media often regard those with similar content as rivals or competitors. Actually, these can be your new best friends. When you promote Chef Shane's cooking blog, he’ll likely tweet about the great chocolate cake recipe on your website. Become a partner in sharing with online personalities where messages are similar to yours and you’ll soon have a vast support network.

Integrating publicity and social media takes some thinking, some effort and, as Jeni says, some creativity. But isn’t that always true when you’re trying to build a better mousetrap? And this marketing costs nothing – not with free Wi-Fi available almost everywhere you turn.

About Marsha Friedman

Marsha Friedman is a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (, a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. She also co-hosts "The News and Experts Radio Show with Alex and Marsha" on Sirius/XM Channel 131 on Saturdays at 5:00 PM EST.

Governor Quinn Announces Major Road Projects for Peoria Area During Transportation Conference PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Nafia Khan   
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 12:01

Illinois 8 and Illinois 29 Work to Create Jobs and Reduce Congestion

PEORIA – April 3, 2012. As part of his commitment to ensuring Illinois has a 21st century transportation system, Governor Pat Quinn today announced two major road projects in the Peoria area. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will complete the final phase of its widening of Illinois Route 8 in Washington this summer and begin finalizing plans for the replacement of the BNSF Railroad viaduct over Illinois Route 29 in Chillicothe. The two projects will create jobs, reduce congestion and improve the flow of goods and services throughout the greater Peoria area.

“In order to compete in the global economy, we must ensure that Illinois has a 21st century transportation system,” Governor Quinn said. “We are committed to modernizing our roads and bridges in the Peoria area, which will create jobs and support economic growth throughout Illinois.”

Governor Quinn announced the two projects, which are estimated to cost more than $12.4 million, while addressing the Innovation Conference on Asphalt & Transportation (ICAT), which provides opportunities to develop public-private partnerships, and address transportation industry challenges. Keynote speakers at the conference included Sam Pitroda, Infrastructure Minister and Advisor to the Prime Minister of India, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and business and government leaders from around the world. ICAT, hosted by Bradley University, also presented Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton with its Heartland Sustainability Award.

The improvements on Illinois Route 8 include reconstructing 1.2 miles of roadway and adding a second lane in each direction, with a middle turn lane and sidewalks, between Summit Drive and Legion Road. Construction will begin later this spring. The project, estimated to cost $10.2 million, is funded through Governor Quinn’s historic Illinois Jobs Now! capital program. The improvements represent the last segment of a long-term, $43.7 million expansion of nearly six miles of Illinois 8 from Rosedale Road in East Peoria to Legion Road in Washington, a stretch that accommodates almost 19,000 cars and trucks a day.

Governor Quinn is also pleased to announce that IDOT is committing $2.2 million to complete the engineering and design plans for replacing the BNSF viaduct over Illinois Route 29 in Chillicothe. The project will replace the two existing viaducts with a single structure carrying three mainline tracks, a yard track, a service road and a pedestrian walkway. Illinois 29 will be widened to two lanes in each direction, with a middle turn lane, sidewalks and a bike path, between Truitt Avenue and the Senachwine Creek Bridge. The engineering and design plans will cost about $2.2 million and require approximately three years to complete. Construction is estimated to cost $22 million.

“These improvements will add much-needed road and rail capacity in the Peoria area,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider. “I am eager to work with our local partners to see both projects completed as soon as possible.”

The six-year, $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! is the largest capital program in the state’s history. Since Governor Quinn helped pass  Illinois Jobs Now! in 2009, the program has created an estimated 1,500 jobs in the Peoria area.


Blackhawk Hills Names Melanie Flesch as Assistant Outreach Coordinator PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Daniel Payette   
Monday, 02 April 2012 12:47
ROCK FALLS, IL – Blackhawks Hills Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D)
announces that Melanie Flesch has been named Assistant Outreach Coordinator. Melanie will
be responsible for outreach support on the iFiber broadband project, as well as general marketing
including research, reporting, social media development, and design.

“We are excited to have Melanie start at Blackhawk Hills,” said Outreach Coordinator Daniel
Payette. “She has a keen sense of communications and brings much enthusiasm to the office.
Importantly, she will allow us to expand our outreach efforts on the broadband project, especially
in researching fiber optic-oriented opportunities for economic and business development.”

Melanie, a native of East Dubuque, IL, is a 2009 graduate of Clarke University’s Business
Administration program. With a concentration in marketing, she has specialized in working
with small businesses in the Dubuque area. Over the past two years, she provided consultation
services with her company, Truly Organized Marketing. Her past experience includes the
positions of Marketing Project Specialist for Heartland Financial and Sales and Marketing
Director for Dubuque Area Steamatic.

About Blackhawk Hills RC&D

Blackhawk Hills RC&D is a not-for-profit corporation based in Rock Falls, IL that serves
Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, and Whiteside counties in northwest Illinois.
Blackhawk Hills RC&D’s services include community planning, development assistance, natural
resources conservation and protection support, and grant writing and administration. Blackhawk
Hills RC&D is sponsored by local county boards and Soil and Water Conservation Districts and
is overseen by an 18-member council, consisting of three representatives from each of the six

Questions about Blackhawk Hills may be directed to Daniel Payette at (815) 625-3854 or
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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