(1) The federal agency that administers Medicare acknowledged to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in November that the government often overpays for patient wheelchairs due to a quirk in its rules. Ordinary wheelchairs sell for $100 to $350, but Medicare cannot reimburse patients who buy the chairs; it can only pay for rentals (for up to 13 months), for $40 to $135 a month. (A 2009 audit found that Medicare allowed up to $7,215 for oxygen dispensers that were available for sale for $587 and $4,018 for a power wheelchair that cost suppliers $1,048.) (2) A December Wall Street Journal investigation turned up instances of physical-therapy doctors earning millions of dollars a year in Medicare payments by “treating” nonexistent patients, overtreating real patients and providing controversial “treatments” that other therapists say are useless. Describing the work of hard-partying, spike-haired Miami Beach doctor Christopher Wayne, one former physical-therapy association official likened Wayne’s expensive “treatment” to “back rubs.” (Medicare law requires prompt payment to doctors but prevents the public release of doctors’ billing records—even if all patient identification is hidden—thus ensuring that any Medicare abuses can only be uncovered by a small team of federal investigators and not by the press unless, as the Journal did, they investigate patient by patient.)
HOPE THE AIR USED PROTECTION
In October, borrowing from the U.S. Air Guitar Championship (which honors self-made guitar “heroes” playing wild rock ‘n roll as if they were holding real guitars), the second annual Air Sex Championship was held in the Music Hall in Brooklyn, New York, and eventually won by Lady C. (whose performance could not easily be described). Each contestant (solo only) had two minutes to cover “all the bases”: “meeting, seduction, foreplay, intercourse, and, if successful, afterglow.” Exposing body parts was not allowed.
The New Jersey Government Record Council ruled in December that the town of Somerset had overcharged Tom Coulter in 2008 by $4.04 on the $5 it collected for a compact disc of a council meeting and must issue a refund. The town estimates that it spent about $17,000 fighting Coulter’s appeals and paying his attorney’s fees.
Police in Hyderabad, Pakistan, recently arrested a doctor for the increasingly suspect crime of insulting Islam—after he merely tossed away the business card of a man who happened to have the last name “Muhammad.” According to a December Associated Press dispatch, “dozens” of Pakistanis are sentenced to death each year for such tangential references to the holy name of Muhammad, but the government fears that trying to repeal the law might incite Muslim extremism.
MOTHER OF THE YEAR
Katrina Camp, 30, was picked up by deputies in September on a Forest Service road near Nederland, Colorado, having earlier walked away from her unclothed 2-year-old daughter, whom she had left to fend for herself in a pickup truck. Camp, however, was candid about the problem: “You’re a parent,” she told a deputy. “You know how it is. Sometimes you just need a break.”
By his own testimony, John Ditullio is a hateful neo-Nazi who despised his next-door neighbors in New Port Richey, Florida (a white woman with an African-American friend and a son who was openly gay), but when the son was murdered and the mother attacked in 2006, Ditullio denied involvement. He earned a hung jury in his first trial, and his retrial was scheduled for November 2010. For each day of the trial, a makeup artist was hired (paid for by the government at $135 a day) to cover up Ditullio’s swastika neck tattoo and crude-phrase cheek tattoo so as to keep jurors from being unfairly prejudiced. Nonetheless, Ditullio was convicted in December and sentenced to death.