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Friday, January 15, 2021

Class Action Suit Targeting Cleveland Clinic's Billing Practices Gets Big Victory

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 3:50 PM

The Cleveland Clinic - WIKIPEDIA
  • Wikipedia
  • The Cleveland Clinic

A Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas judge Thursday denied the Cleveland Clinic Foundation's motion to dismiss a potential class-action lawsuit targeting the hospital's billing practices.

Judge John P. O'Donnell ruled that the suit may go forward, and that the arguments advanced by the Clinic's legal team — basically, that certain Ohio consumer protection laws don't apply to the Clinic because of exemptions for transactions between physicians and patients — were faulty or unconvincing. 

Daniel Myers, attorney for plaintiff Amanda van Brakle, told Scene he was glad the case can move toward  a trial.

"Since this case started, more people have come forward with issues, and we've filed additional cases against other hospitals engaged in similar conduct," he wrote in an email. "If the case is ultimately successful, we look forward to hopefully getting hospitals to be transparent with pricing upfront, preventing many surprise medical bills, and requiring accurate medical billing for patients of Ohio hospitals."

The suit emerged after van Brakle underwent a radiology exam at a Lakewood Cleveland Clinic office in 2018. She was never provided an estimate for the procedure, and the partial payments that she submitted over time were not regularly and coherently applied to her balance. An initial lawsuit filed in October sought up to $5 million in damages and alleged that the Clinic's unfair billing practices created confusion, caused undue stress and resulted in the financial ruin of many patients.

The Clinic argued in its motion to dismiss that unlike goods and services which have a known price, the medical services it provided were dependent on a specific patient's needs, whether or not that patient had insurance, and the specific terms of the insurance plan.

But Judge O'Donnell refuted that line of argument. He ruled that radiology and imagine services, which are outpatient procedures and, at least in Van Brakle's case, were not administered by a physician, are "the very definition of a routine test." There was nothing preventing the Clinic from knowing the procedure's approximate cost and furnishing a written or oral estimate up front, regardless of van Brakle's insurance status.   

O'Donnell also agreed with county precedent in ruling that even though physicians are exempt from the Consumer Sales Practices Act, the hospitals they work for are not. You can read the full 12-page ruling below.

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The Last Ohio Statehouse Protests Ended in Fistfights. Now Officials Worry About Inauguration Violence

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 3:17 PM

  • Jake Zuckerman/OCJ
It was a peaceful protest outside the Ohio Statehouse. Then it was a crowd of Proud Boys wailing on Dejuan Sharp.

The brawl came a few hours later.

Sharp, a Black man, attended the Jan. 6 protest along with other Black Lives Matter activists when, by his account, a Proud Boy in a baseball helmet called him a “n—er.”

At that point, he crossed from the west side of High Street to the east, where the Proud Boys gathered.

Several recordings of events reviewed by the Ohio Capital Journal don’t clearly show who made the first move. Sharp said in an interview he was hit by a whip. Then he swung.

The Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group clad in black and yellow with a reputation for starting fights with liberal activists, can then be seen in a chaotic fistfight with Sharp, knocking him to the ground. Multiple members threw punches while he was down.

(An email from an account belonging to the “Proud Boys of Cleveland” disputed an earlier version of this article referring to the group as a ‘street gang,’ stating the Proud Boys are a “fraternal organization.”)

All this occurred roughly 50 yards from the seat of state government just after noon. The Proud Boys joined supporters of President Donald Trump in baselessly claiming election fraud.

Shortly after the fight subsided, separate footage from the Columbus Dispatch shows Sharp talking to a man in the middle of the street as another large man in a tactical vest approaches from Sharp’s blind side and throws a right hook landing on Sharp’s jaw.

No evidence has substantiated claims of widespread fraud. Courts have dismissed a long spread of lawsuits alleging fraud, and elections officials around the country from both major political parties have dismissed the idea of fraud at enough scale to swing any state’s election.

Staff Lt. Craig Cvetan of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said Thursday no charges have been filed in connection with the fights at the Statehouse last week.

Bracing for impact

Officials fear violent demonstrations at the U.S. Capitol and outside all 50 state Capitols this weekend. This is true in Ohio, though Gov. Mike DeWine declined to detail what evidence is raising this concern.

Along with deploying 700 Ohio National Guard troops to assist in Washington D.C., he said guardsmen will be “out in force” in Columbus, as will the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the force that protects the state Capitol grounds.

Through 2020, guns were a fixture at political demonstrations in Ohio. They were simply everywhere: lockdown protests in spring and racial justice protests in summer were pockmarked with long guns. Three members of the “Ohio State Regular Militia” patrolled the Capitol in November the day networks projected Biden won — they would go on to join the Capitol invasion Jan. 6.

Speaking to reporters, DeWine deflected questions about guns at protests and last week’s fistfights at the Statehouse. He declined to share specific details of the purported threats this weekend but said officials are always concerned about security.

“We have other information, frankly, which I’m not going to talk about,” he said. “So we have a heightened sense of concern, but we’ve always been concerned about security. The focus is always on protecting human life.”

Mary McCord, a Georgetown University law professor and former DOJ official, said it’s difficult to predict right now exactly what will happen this weekend or how real the threat level is. Some on the right say the alleged protests on Capitols are “law enforcement traps” or “antifa” — the go-to boogeyman of MAGA and right-wing extremism.

The law enforcement in Columbus Jan. 6 was perhaps lax because officers sought to avoid the heavy-handed approaches deployed during unrest this summer. McCord said the police response might be more aggressive after the rioters outnumbered and overpowered Capitol Police last week.

“I think in part what you’re seeing now is a realization: ‘We blew it,’” she said.

A reporter received a candid answer from the OSHP chief after asking how many people are expected this weekend.

“We don’t have any idea,” said Col. Richard Fambro.

Cancel culture

Whether unrest will emerge this weekend is unclear.

What’s evident is many are taking the threat seriously enough to cancel a spread of different political demonstrations — a gut punch given the upcoming MLK day and the traditionally celebratory-turned-militant Inauguration Day.

The Columbus Dispatch reports several demonstrations to honor Andre Hill, an unarmed Black man recently killed by police, as well as an MLK Day event have been canceled.

Speaking earlier this week, Sharp said he was thinking he’ll probably stay home and urging his friends to do the same.

“They’re gonna try to put on a show for the cameras, or whatever Parler posts,” he said. “Me going down there and fighting them isn’t gonna change any laws in Columbus.”

In a text Thursday, he said he’s planning to come demonstrate, but not right in front of the Statehouse.

Linscott-Hill said he and some other BLM activists will be buzzing around the Capitol.

Franklin County Clerk of Courts Maryellen O’Shaughnessy closed county court buildings through Jan. 20.

Judi Phelps, a conservative activist seldom seen without a pistol holstered to her thigh, said “that’s a big no” when asked whether she’s planning any demonstration.

“This is all a false flag, it’s not something that any one of the groups that I’m associated with has any knowledge of,” she said. “To my knowledge, the Proud Boys are not coming out either.”

Originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal. Republished here with permission.

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As Cleveland Hospitals Get Ready to Expand Vaccine Rollout to Public, They're Still Trying to Get Full Buy-In From Own Staffers

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 2:51 PM

  • Baltimore County Government/FlickrCC

Ohio's rollout of the Covid vaccines next week enters phase 1B, which will include older residents and school personnel. Phase 1A, which includes healthcare workers and first-responders, has been ongoing since vaccines began arriving in December and continues.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Health announced this week that it would be delaying its part of phase 1B as too much work remained to be done on phase 1A.

“We’re going to hold off and in receiving the 1B vaccine until we make a bigger dent in the 1A process, but we’ll be working very closely with our providers and our partners across the community,” Director Terry Allan said, noting there are still about 10,000 first responders, developmentally disabled and assisted living residents it wanted to reach first. "We think it just makes good sense to finish the job with 1A.”

The rest of the locations that will administer vaccines in phase 1B, including select pharmacies and most hospitals, will go on, depending on supply.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has  bemoaned what he viewed as the state's general failure to efficiently and quickly roll out the vaccine. But the state has also left it up to localities to design and execute the process. In Cleveland, Mayor Frank Jackson this week said the reason the city had only given 1,767 of its initial allocation of 6,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine was because it lacked the proper infrastructure to do more. Nationwide, vaccinations have fallen far below promises made by the Trump administration for a variety of reasons.

As the next step begins, those administering vaccines in the second phase are battling not only infrastructure problems and a scarce supply but also a degree of public wariness over the vaccine in general.

Many in the Black community, for example, are skeptical for historical reasons — sterilization research on Black women, the Tuskegee syphilis study, etc.

More broadly, surveys have found Americans have voiced concerns about side effects, the speed of the development and approval of the vaccine, and certain conspiracy theories involving Bill Gates and anti-vax sentiments.

So far, less than half of Americans intend to get vaccinated, according to a recent survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that more than 80% of Americans will have to be vaccinated before the country achieves herd immunity.

As hospitals get set to begin administering vaccines to the public, they will also be part of the educational process to alleviate those fears.

It's one they've already undertaken with their own staffs.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found nearly a third of frontline workers nationwide indicated they were "vaccine hesitant," saying they "probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists."

In a recent briefing, Gov. DeWine said around 60% of nursing home workers in Ohio had declined to get poked.

A survey among Tampa area hospital workers found those who were hesitant had less education than those who believed the vaccines to be safe.

According to the CDC, adverse effects so far are extremely rare.

"Out of the first 1.9 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine administered in the United States, there were 21 reported cases of severe allergic reactions to the vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said January 6," Science News reported last week.

The rate of anaphylaxis seen so far — 11.1 cases per 1 million vaccine doses — is higher than for the flu vaccine, which is 1.3 cases per 1 million doses, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a Jan. 6 news briefing. But the reactions to COVID-19 vaccines are “still exceedingly rare,” she said.

“These are safe and effective vaccines. We have good data to show that,” Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a Jan. 6 briefing.

Still, Cleveland's hospital networks have seen their share of employees who have declined the vaccine.

Anecdotally, administration staff have been pleasantly surprised at the vaccine being offered to them so quickly but have felt that's partially because so many patient-forward coworkers have passed on the chance. There are stories of entire floors at hospitals where staff who've gotten the vaccine can be counted on one hand. And, if you take even a brief tour through Facebook, there are nurses sharing anti-vax memes clearly indicative of their feelings.

While some hospitals have chosen to voluntarily disclose vaccination rates, including Henry Ford in Detroit, only University Hospitals responded to a request for data from Scene with something approximating hard numbers.

"More than half of UH’s 28,000 caregivers (clinical and non-clinical) have received a COVID-19 vaccine, and through future scheduling we expect to have the majority of the remaining caregivers vaccinated by Sunday, Jan. 17," UH said in a statement. "Around 12 percent of caregivers have indicated they want to wait to receive the vaccine or do not want the vaccine. Among their reasons: 1) pregnancy or breastfeeding 2) allergies / medical conditions, 3) religious beliefs and 4) waiting to learn more information. At this time, there are no plans to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for caregivers. Those who choose not to receive the vaccine can continue to work in their normal environment and will not be restricted from any area. They will be required to wear the PPE appropriate to their work environment and continue to practice good hand hygiene and physical distancing recommendations."

MetroHealth offered only a brief general statement saying that it had "offered the vaccine to the entirety of our workforce" and that it had "given doses to more than 4,700 people."

"MetroHealth’s overriding philosophy is a shot in the arm is better than a shot in the freezer," the hospital said. "We are also educating employees with in-house videos, messages from the CEO and his team and testimonials from those who have received the vaccine. The number and reasons for employees opting out is not available."

The Cleveland Clinic, meanwhile, gave the vaguest answer, despite being the largest hospital system in Cleveland.

"We have received our allocation of COVID-19 vaccine from the Ohio Department of Health and expect to receive additional shipments. Prior to receiving vaccine supplies, we surveyed our caregivers and 70% of respondents indicated that they would probably or definitely take the vaccine when it was available to them. We are currently in the process of administering vaccine to healthcare workers within our health system and have been successful in quickly filling available appointments once supply arrives. We will administer the remainder of our current supply by the end of this week."

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New Welshly Arms Single Offers Message of Hope

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 2:31 PM

  • Courtesy of DRPR
Just today, Welshly Arms, the local rock band that includes singer-guitarist Sam Getz, bassist Jimmy Weaver, drummer Mikey Gould, singer Bri Bryant and singer Jon Bryant, released its latest single, “I Will Overcome,” a song that, as a press release puts it, “coincides with the country’s changing political tides and rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

"We wrote 'I Will Overcome' about looking forward and moving past all of the division, polarization, marginalization and unrest that we had to face over the past year,” says Getz in a statement about the soulful gospel-tinged song. “Though we are still in the midst of this challenging chapter, we know a change is coming and we are ready to turn the page and step into what is next. We believe in the human spirit and the collective ability to rise up together.”

“I Will Overcome” is the first 2021 release from Welshly since the 2020 lockdown.  During that time, the band released three singles, “Trouble,” “Stand” and “save me from the monster in my head.”

The group’s breakthrough hit “Legendary” is certified platinum in Germany and Switzerland and paved the way for three consecutive Top 10 radio hits in Germany and a Top 15 hit at alternative radio in the U.S. The band’s music has appeared in ads for Jeep, Becks, Miller Lite, the NFL and the MLB as well as in trailers for EA SPORTS’ FIFA and Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.

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Tamir Rice Family to Protest Downtown Friday, Demand Accountability in Dropped Federal Investigation

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 12:41 PM

  • Sam Allard / Scene
The family of Tamir Rice, their legal team, and their community of supporters will rally for justice Friday afternoon in downtown Cleveland. After the Department of Justice announced in December that it was officially closing its five-year inquiry into the tragic case without pursuing charges against Cleveland officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, the Rice family was shocked.

They were distraught, among other reasons, that they learned the news in the media. The Justice Department had failed to provide updates throughout the case and failed to inform the family of its final decision. The Friday protest is a renewed demand for accountability, "for the past and current failures" of the local and federal justice system, and part of a revived campaign to seek #JusticeForTamir via new legal appeals.

"Tamir Rice’s murder was — and is — a touchstone for global debate about racial injustice in the United States," a press statement announcing the protest affirmed, "and Tamir has become one of the most important figures in the quest for justice for Black Lives cut short by police violence."

The 12-year-old Tamir was shot in the stomach while playing with a toy gun at Cudell Recreation Center on Nov. 22, 2014 by officer Timothy Loehmann, who fired his weapon instantly upon arrival at the Cudell gazebo in a police cruiser driven by Garmback. The city of Cleveland settled the case for $6 million in 2016.

Federal charges could have been brought if the Justice Department deemed there was sufficient evidence that the officers denied the civil rights of Tamir or that they obstructed justice. Both the Rice family lawyer, Subodh Chandra, and other legal experts said they believed that there was ample evidence to pursue a grand jury investigation, but that "politics trump[ed] the law." 

Demonstrators will meet at 2:30 p.m. at Fort Huntington Park, the small green space at Lakeside and West 3rd, across from the Cuyahoga County Justice Center.

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Big Parma and Brunswick News: New Chick-Fil-A Locations Will Open Next Week

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 12:05 PM

  • Mike Mozard/FlickrCC

If what you're 2021 was missing so far was a Chick-fil-A even more conveniently located to your house than the options already dotting Northeast Ohio, well good news to residents of Brunswick and Parma and environs nearby has arrived.

The purveyor of assorted chicken menu items confirmed today that its new locations in those two lovely Cleveland suburbs will open for business on Thursday, Jan. 21.

Parma (6676 Ridge Rd. at the Shoppes at Parma) will only be open for drive-thru service while Brunswick (3470 Center Rd.) will be open for drive-thru and curbside service.


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Corky & Lenny's Casino Location Closing at the End of January

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 10:28 AM

  • Erik Drost/FlickrCC

JACK Cleveland Casino will say goodbye to Corky & Lenny's at the end of January.

After nine years delivering gamblers a taste of what they could score at the Chagrin Blvd. location, owners Amanda and Kenny Kurland are calling it a day downtown, they told Cleveland Jewish News.

JACK had once emphasized local brands, sporting a B-Spot from Michael Symon and a Rosie & Rocco's Italian concept from Rocco Whalen, both of which departed in 2017 at the end of their leases, in addition to the eastside deli import in Corky's.

With a pandemic and fewer gamblers coming through door, along with the statewide curfew, casino traffic isn't what it was before. JACK, CJN reported, allowed Corky & Lenny's to depart a year from their contract.

“It was a great run for 10 years,” Kenny Kurland told CJN. “We were excited to be there. We were excited to have another small location. Things sometimes come to an end.”

Stack'd and Nonna Pazza remain in the food court.

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