Susan Tripp Pollard / The Contra Costa Times

Makhai McMath, 8, blows bubble gum as she marches in support of her 13-year-old sister Jahi McMath, who has been ruled brain-dead after tonsillectomy complications.

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    Californians who began health insurance applications for coverage starting Jan. 1 have until 8 p.m. today to complete their enrollment, exchange officials said. Those customers need to call the exchange's service center at (800) 300-1506 or get in touch with enrollment counselors or agents certified by Covered California. A spokesman said incomplete applications must be handled by phone or in person because the Web portal for past-due policy requests is now closed.

    – Christopher Cadelago

The Buzz: Consumer Watchdog cites Oakland tragedy in fundraising appeal

Published: Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am

Malpractice group cites brain-dead teen’s case

A California consumer advocacy group is tying a tonsillectomy gone awry to a planned ballot initiative.

Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ruled on Tuesday that 13-year-old Jahi McMath, who fell into a coma after complications in tonsillectomy surgery, was brain-dead and could be taken off life support. The McMath family secured a restraining order to keep the child alive.

In a fundraising email on Thursday, Consumer Watchdog contends that hospitals “actually have an incentive to let children like Jahi die” because they would not need to pay medical bills spurred by negligence claims.

Pain and suffering damages as the result of malpractice lawsuits – distinct from the ongoing costs of medical care – are capped at $250,000. Consumer Watchdog has spearheaded a ballot initiative to raise that limit.

Consumer Watchdog has called for an investigation into McMath’s surgery, arguing that Children’s Hospital Oakland “has been less than forthcoming about the circumstances that led to the tragedy.”

Hospital spokeswoman Cynthia Chiarappa called the allegations “outrageous.”

– Jeremy B. White

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