JACKSON, Miss.-Mail fraud charges were dropped last week against state Insurance Commissioner George Dale. At the request of federal prosecutors, U.S. District Judge William H. Barbour Jr. in Jackson dismissed Mr. Dale's indictment, which alleged he improperly took about $100,000 in campaign contributions from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi (Feb. 28, p. 20). His trial would have begun June 13. Mr. Dale still faces a Sept. 19 trial on charges he took $2,500 in contributions for hiding management problems at Blue Cross. He has pleaded innocent.
JACKSON, Miss.-Mississippi's attorney general's office last week filed a lawsuit against 13 tobacco companies to demand they pay a fair share of the state's healthcare costs to treat smokers. The lawsuit, which was filed in Chancery Court of Jackson County, is the first of its kind filed by a state agency. Although the lawsuit doesn't specify the amount of damages, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office said the damages could run into "the hundreds of millions of dollars." The state contends the tobacco companies made "enormous profits from selling tobacco" and should pay "their fair share of medical costs to treat patients suffering from cancer and emphysema," said Trey Bobinger, the spokesman. He said the attorney general is seeking reimbursement for state programs or organizations that provide healthcare to patients who suffer from smoking-related illnesses. The state programs include Medicaid, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the state's insurance program for low-income residents, Mr. Bobinger said. The companies have 30 days to respond to the suit.
SARASOTA, Fla.-Teresa Hamilton died of cardiac arrest in her home some four months after she was pronounced clinically brain dead by physicians at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Ms. Hamilton, 15, lapsed into a diabetic coma in January after she had been admitted to Sarasota Memorial for flu-like symptoms (April 11, p. 34). While physicians declared her brain-dead, her parents asked the hospital not to remove her from life-support systems. The case made national news because it illustrated the ethical and legal dilemma providers sometimes face when deciding whether to use sophisticated life-prolonging equipment and when they should withdraw it. Although the hospital had legal power to remove the respirator from Teresa, officials struck a compromise in early March with the Hamiltons, allowing them to take Teresa home. Since March, the Hamiltons have run up medical expenses of about $200,000.