The Week in Review

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked an attempt to protect the rights of women workers to company-sponsored health care benefits. A Senate panel chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday heard testimony about the third leading cause of death in America: preventable medical mistakes by hospitals. There was a huge outpouring of public comments before a midnight Friday deadline on a Federal Communications Commission plan that would doom net neutrality. Also on Friday, in an unabashed scheme to evade U.S. taxes, a giant U.S. drug company announced plans to take over a big foreign rival and shift the corporate headquarters to Great Britain. One way to treat corporate deserters like that, Sanders said, is to bar them from any U.S. government contracts.  

Medical Mistakes Preventable medical errors in hospitals are the third leading cause of death in the United States, a Senate panel was told on Thursday. The Journal of Patient Safety found that as many as 440,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors in hospitals. Only heart disease and cancer kill more Americans. “Medical harm is a major cause of suffering, disability, and death – as well as a huge financial cost to our nation,” Sanders said at the hearing by the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, which he chairs. In addition to deaths and injuries, medical errors also cost billions of dollars. One 2011 study put the figure at $17 billion a year. Counting indirect costs like lost productivity due to missed work days, medical errors may cost nearly $1 trillion each year, according to a 2012 report in the Journal of Health Care Finance. Read more

Women Lose Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked an effort to protect the rights of women to make their own health care decisions. In a 56-43 vote – four short of the 60 needed – only three Republicans supported a bill to undo a Supreme Court decision that company owners may use a religious-freedom law to avoid complying with a requirement under the Affordable Care Act to cover all forms of contraception approved by the government without charging workers a copayments. “The court was wrong and the Senate Republicans are wrong,” Sanders said. “Bosses should not be able to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act was a response to the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the owners of a business called Hobby Lobby. The bill would have ensured that employers cannot interfere in their employees’ decisions about contraception or other health services.

VA The Department of Veterans Affairs needs to hire 10,000 doctors, nurses and other health care providers and expand hospitals and clinics in order to meet the needs of a growing number of veterans now facing long waits for health care appointments, Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson said on Wednesday at a Senate veterans committee hearing. He was responding to questions from Sanders, the committee chairman about what’s needed to reduce long wait times and treat an influx of veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who need treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other health care needs. Without the additional resources, Gibson said, “the wait times just get longer.”

Net Neutrality More than 1 million comments were filed by Friday’s midnight deadline for the public to weigh in on the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to end net neutrality. Sanders forwarded more than 40,000 of those comments gathered through his social media outreach efforts. “If the FCC allows big corporations to negotiate ‘fast lane’ deals, then the Internet will be sold to the highest bidder.  Companies with the money will have the access to their customers while small businesses will be treated as second- and third-class citizens,” Sanders said. Read more

Child Refugees Sen. Sanders on Wednesday said children fleeing violence in Honduras should be afforded safe and humane housing in the United States. “We have a refugee crisis,” Sanders said. “It is a moral issue. Do you simply shove them back to where they came from? I don’t think that’s what America’s supposed to be about.” WATCH

Corporate Tax Dodgers As more and more giant American corporations try to dodge U.S. taxes by moving overseas, Sanders on Friday announced legislation to ban those businesses from receiving lucrative U.S. government contracts. Sanders said that he will file an amendment to a Department of Defense authorization bill to prohibit the U.S. government from awarding federal contracts to companies that reincorporate overseas to avoid paying U.S. income taxes. “I have a message for these corporate deserters: You can't be an American company only when you want corporate welfare from American taxpayers or you want lucrative contracts from the federal government. If you want the advantages of being an American company then you can’t run away from America to avoid paying taxes.” Sanders announced the legislation on the same day pharmaceutical giant AbbVie said it plans to take over Shire, its European rival, in a merger that would allow the Chicago-based drug maker to reincorporate in Britain and lower its  effective U.S. income tax rate from 22 percent to just 13 percent by 2016. Read more