Weekly Pulse: Rotten Eggs, Drowsy Doctors, and Expensive Insurance

Weekly Pulse: Rotten Eggs, Drowsy Doctors, and Expensive

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Tainted egg shell game

The Iowa chapter of the
Sierra Club is pushing state
to investigate two factory farms and a feed mill linked to
this summer's massive recall of salmonella-tainted eggs, Lynda Waddington
reports in the Iowa Independent. The Sierra Club sent a strongly-worded
letter to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller urging him to investigate
Wright County Egg, Hillandale Farms and the Quality Egg LLC feed mill. All
three firms were linked to the salmonella outbreak that sickened an
estimated 1200 people; and all three firms are linked to agro-baron Austin
"Jack" DeCoster.

Tom Philpott of Grist calls href="http://bit.ly/9x87dc">DeCoster a "habitual" environmental
offender and "one of the most reviled names in industrial agriculture." In
1996, the Department of Labor fined DeCoster Eggs $3.6 million for what
the then-Secretary of Labor described as "running an agricultural
sweatshop" and "treating its employees like animals." Over the years,
DeCoster enterprises racked up additional fines in other states. A
previous Attorney General of Iowa dubbed DeCoster a habitual offender for
water pollution. In 2002, five female employees at the DeCoster's Wright
County egg operation alleged that their supervisors had raped them and
threatened to kill them if they reported the crime. The company paid $1.5
million to settle the lawsuit.

Drowsy doctors

A coalition of public health activists is pushing the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to regulate the work hours of
doctors in training. New proposed guidelines would limit the shifts of
first-year residents to 16 hours, but more senior trainees could be forced
to work shifts up to 28 hours. The group, which includes the Committee of
Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare, the American Medical Student
Association, and Public Citizen, says that's not good enough to protect
doctors or the public. As I explain in Working In These Times, research
shows that sleep deprivation is a major
preventable cause of medical errors, which is why the coalition wants to
see shifts for all residents capped at 16 hours.

premiums soar

A new report from the Kaiser Foundation
Family shows that health insurance premiums continued to climb with
employers shifting an ever-greater share of the burden onto employees. A
family health insurance policy costs about $14,000 a year, with employees
shouldering 30% of that cost. Michelle Chen reports in ColorLines that
families that manage to hang onto their health insurance href="http://bit.ly/atRpVO">can't expect relief through health care
reform any time soon. The major reforms don't go into effect until 2014
and the biggest early beneficiaries will be those who are currently
uninsured rather than those who are already paying through the nose for
lousy coverage. The ultimate goal of comprehensive health care reform is
to reshape the health care and health insurance systems to bring costs
down across the board, but that's small consolation to workers who are
struggling to stay on top of their premiums right now.