Saturday, August 26, 2006

Trial Lawyers and Hip Pockets

A few candidates have raised the issue of medical liability lawsuits driving up the cost of medical malpractice insurance. In the Old Pueblo, specialists have left the area reportedly due to this problem leaving patients to wait months to see one of a few remaining physicians that can help. Due to the extreme shortage of specialists, prices for some have been driven up even further.

The sugar daddy list suggests why this problem is not being addressed. In the CD8 race, Patty Weiss tops the list with her number one contribution source being trial lawyers. With Gabby Giffords, trial lawyers show up number two.

On the Republican side, one candidate appears to be courting trial lawyers. That's Steve Huffman who relies on them as his number two source of contributions.

Of these candidates, Weiss is in fair condition, but slipping fast. Gabby looks to be the only one of the three that will survive the primary. Huffman's campaign is still on life support with Huffman trying to reincarnate himself as a conservative. None of these candidates has raised the issue of tort reform. The challenge they all face is how do so without alienating the hands that feed their campaigns.

11 comments:

Hellon is better said...

Lawsuits have nothing to do with the increase costs of medical insurance. We have less lawsuits now than historically and they make up less tan 1/10th of 1% of the cost of doing business in the industry.

The real issue is inflated insurance premiums, which is soley due to increased profit margins by the corporate executivies. Take a look at each insurer and what their top executives are paid. 1000% increase over just 20 years ago.

As a fiscal conservative I would like to see this addressed by both Democrats and Republicans in terms of what the real issue is and not the corporate neocon talking points. I would expect an argument like that out of Huffman or Giffords who line their pockets with corporate money. From a Graf supporter, I would think you would be smarter than that and try to lower our costs instead of increasing it.

If you really think trial lawyers are a problem then instead of limiting damage suits to victims who get screwed over twice, limit the % lawyers can collect. Lower it to 20% and have a mandatory portion the victim will get.

The other point is, if we had doctors that were trained based on real science and research instead of drug-company funded medical schools, there would be less incidence of reasons to sue.

bob said...

Graf actually has addressed the problem with the insurance company middle-men. Insurance is exactly that... Insurance. It's in case of some big unforseen event or emergency. The problem is that it has morphed in the medical industry to be a sort of private dole that makes you pay into it regularly for normal services, and then soaks you and fights you when an emergency hits. The fight comes not only b/c of a desire for larger profit margins, but also b/c they have their hands so deep into the everyday services that they forgot what they're really around for. Look at your car insurance- even with "full coverage", your car insurance doesn't cover the regular oil changes, tire rotations, or even replacing the transmission when it finally goes out after 150,000 miles. It only covers major unforseen expenses that are not part of the regular life of the car- ie. accidents, theft, broken windows, etc. It only "insures" that you have the money to take care of major expenses that cannot be planned for. And even then, most of the issue is taken care of between you and a mutually agreed upon mechanic. Medical insurance doesn't even allow that.

The problem is (and Graf has said this) is that medical insurance isn't insurance anymore. It's morphed into something much more expansive and invasive. We need to move to medical savings accounts where individuals can save their own money to take care of regular medical expenses (corps can match much like a 401K plan to make it feasible for lower income families) leaving control in the hands of doctors and patients to do what needs to be done. That takes all the bureaucratic corporate mess and cost out of the equation. Then for major expenses, major medical insurance should be available which would be just that- INSURANCE in case of a major medical expense like surgery, emergency care, birth, etc. Take the middle-man out, and you cut down the costs considerably.

But to say that lawsuits are not a major problem is ignoring the facts. Sure, the ACTUAL costs associated DIRECTLY with lawsuits may only be 1/10th of 1%, but the costs of liability insurance to cover doctors who don't have millions of dollars just lying around to pay off every plaintiff who comes-a-suing costs much more than that. In fact, some estimates have placed that cost at almost 20% of the costs specialists pay to provide care, and that is what tort reform aims to slash. If the cost of medical malpractice insurance is cut, then that in combination with eliminating the big insurance company middle-man will lower the cost of medical care by 20% or more.

Gotta get the facts straight and the issues correct. Anyone who thinks that Graf is a one-issue candidate (border security), is absolutely wrong. He's the only one talking about a comprehensive solution to the problem of rising medical costs. Others, like Weiss, are just promoting socialized medicine. I don't care what she wants to call it, that is exactly what it is. Sure, that might not cost us as much directly, but we'll sure feel it come tax season. And while it might not cost as much, the care will be awful. She hasn't lived in Europe where that kind of care is prevalent. I have. She hasn't had to spend any time in one of those hospitals where the nurse to patient ratio is about 1 to 20. I have. She hasn't dealt with the run-down facilities and archaic medical practices. I have. Anyone who advocates modeling a plan after the European model has never been there and seen the difference.

I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free to choose my healthcare. It may cost slightly more (because there you have to factor in the higher taxes to provide the social medicine) here, but the care is many times better. That's why the wealthy people of other nations come here to get their care.

Jane Arizona said...

To play devil's advocate here -- we have a Republican-controlled Senate, a Republican-controlled House and a Republican president. Legislation to cap punitive damages at $200K for medical malpractice has been around and around several times. Why won't they pass it?

My guess is that nobody wants to be the Congressman who has to tell the weeping parents of a dead child that their beloved son or daughter was only worth $200,000, and sorry...

Framer said...

Not my topic, but I'll interject. . .

Punative damage should have nothing to do with the cost of the injury to the victim or their family. That is, or should be, covered in compensatory damages.

Ideally punitve damages should be used, if at all, as a type of fine to punish the wrongdoer in very special cases, especially if it turns out that compensatory damages won't really be much of a penalty to the defendant. This money should be put to the use of the greater community and not be given to the plaintff or their lawyers as they have had their reckoning.

Kralmajales said...

The first poster is right on. What amazes me about the tort reform debate is that it is an argument for government regulation of a uniquely free market response to compensating injuries.

In fact, studies show that businesses file more frivolous law suits against individuals than do individuals versus companies. There is no linkage between lawsuits and the cost of healthcare or products. Last, there is GOOD evidence to believe that the whole scare about torts was manufactured and manipulated by a coalition of conservative interests, insurance companies, businesses, and conservative legal scholars. See the very amazing and award winning book Distorting the Law by Haltom and McCann. It is good scholarship and it points to how some interests, brilliantly, distorted the truth about tort suits and took advantage of how American view attorneys.

Last, the market thing again. The American tort system is a product of our free market. It very much like what some conservatives have posed as a response for environmental programs. It is about adding in the external costs of problems that manufacturing, doctoring, and other services can cause. A lawsuit poses an incentive to be careful. It is brought individually or in class after a problem is alleged to occur. The very response conservative want for the tort system is REGULATION. They love the tort system because it really benefits them and they want to change it to make it benefit them more. But BEWARE..if you start regulating the legal market response to compensation, you very well might get what they have in Europe. Heavy heavy government regulation instead.

Kralmajales said...

Medical saving accounts????? Just like the ability for Americans to save more of their money tax free right...in a 401K?

Big big problem. What if you do not have the discretionary earnings to save and take advantage of the tax benefits you claim so may could do? This is the very reason by tax incentive savings benefit the rich over the poor and even middle class.

I am far far above being poor. After years of working, I still cannot max out per year what the government would allow me to save tax free. Those with more money can put more money away tax free. Those with less have the option to do so, but can't put away as much and often none at all. How in the world would a medical savings plan for an average American be able to afford cancer treatments, let alone a simple broken leg?

bob said...

Kralmajales-

You missunderstand the medical savings account solution. I realize that it won't solve EVERY problem because of two points you made above, but it will help the majority of people get better care at a much lower price. I agree with you that the rich will be able to save more, but they DO already. It's pretty much an immutable law. If you have more, you can save more. That's nothing wrong with that. But the way you make it sound is that there is something inherently evil in being rich and so the rich must be punished and not receive any benefits. But it's hard to direct benefits at one class of people without other classes also reaping a few as well. I also agree that the lowest income households who are living paycheck to paycheck also won't be able to participate by saving their own money in a medical savings account. Because of that, I don't advocate doing away with more comprehensive medical plans. However, the savings that will result from the medical savings accounts CAN be passed on by employers to their employees.

In fact, many companies who have introduced the medical savings account system as an medical plan option have found that they are saving so much from lower premiums that they can contribute much more in cash directly to their employees accounts and still be ahead financially. Middle- and even lower- income households will be able to participate just as much as anyone else. If you only save $1000 in a year and then your employer matches it or more (which a few employers are doing b/c they are saving so much on premiums), you can carry over everything you don't spend to the next year and even take the full thing with you when you leave the firm to go elsewhere. And remember, you still have MAJOR MEDICAL insurance to cover those big unforseen events (ie. your above mentioned cancer treatments and simple broken leg). The medical savings account takes care of the regular medical maintenance like your dental checkup, your physicals, shots, blood tests, sore throat checkup at the family practitioner, etc. $2000 should cover the majority of that.

My parents weren't rich for many years, but they saved a good chunk of money each year in the their 401K because they learned to budget well. If you're spending money on quads and a boat, but don't have money to go to the doctor, then your priorities are probably a little out of whack. I'm convinced from my parents' experience that the majority of middle and lower income households can save about $1000 each year with some good budgeting and priortization.

bob said...

Now to address the "free market" argument made. This is Economics 101, so I'm surprised at this argument. If a market were truly free, there would be NO government intervention to prevent or punish malpractice. That means that lawsuits would be illegal b/c that would mean that the government is intervening to punish something and set it right. The moment the government intervenes in any measure, the market is no longer free. Therefore, the argument that a lawsuit is the "free market" response is faulty.

The REAL free market response to any kind of business malpractice (medical or otherwise) is a loss of business. If the consumers dislike the problem enough, then they will not give any more business to the organization at fault. That will result in at least a major loss of revenue forcing the company to fix the problem or continue losing business, and may even result in a complete boycott by consumers driving the organization out of business entirely. But the free market response is ALWAYS a consumer choice to purchase the product/service or not. Government intervention (and a lawsuit IS government intervention) is NEVER a free market response.

I've switched doctors and dentists because I didn't like their bedside manner or, in a couple of cases, because they gave faulty medical advice. They lost business b/c of their malpractice. That was the free market response to their poor practice.

I agree that insurance companies sometimes make obscene profits. I don't like it. But the free market response isn't to have the government regulate them more, or fine them, or shut them down. The free market response is for us as consumers to find an alternative to traditional insurance plans to take our business away from them so that they either change to suit our market demands or just exit the market entirely.

Kralmajales said...

Ok...ok...on the free market response, if you take it that far then YES the only free market response is one where constomers don't patronize. However, even the most limited government market of all has courts as a mechanism to protect and preserve property rights. Civil law developed out of the rationale needed for a dispute resolution system to uphold contracts...something every business must have...and to protect property and transactions. It also established torts to protect all consumers and businesses from damages made against their property and person. Businesses benefit enormously from the tort system. It is not a PURE market mechanism but our system came from a market based, business based, individual rights culture of law and property. The moment you start altering it, you are regulating...plain nad simple.

Tahlequah said...

The Truth About Trial Attorneys and Those Candidates They Support

Voting for candidates supported by trial attorney's opens the question who is most shameless. The candidate or the attorney?

Did you know trial attorneys are the second largest contributors to the Democratic Party? What does that say about Republican candidates that take their money?

Look at the damage done to Arizonians who are unable to see doctors. The women who give birth on the side of the road in our state. Those who die because there is no neurosurgeon available.

There are enormous financial rewards by ignoring the facts and choose to do great damage to countless medical practioners and the patients they serve.
Thanks to trial attorneys, malpractice law is not about the search for justice, it's become a lotto jackpot!

These lawsuits are hurting the nation and we feel it here in Arizona. By reinforcing the idea there is always someone to blame when things go wrong, we ALL lose.
There are times when only the hand of God can change the outcome.

Shame on Steve Huffman from taking support from this unscrupulous, two-bit snake oil organization. He claims to represent and respect us-does he think we're idiots?

Is it true Toni Hellon has also accepted their contributions? If anyone knows, please share the information!

If you are still unconvinced the Trial Attorneys are poison consider this:
At the 2004 American Medical Association annual meeting it was proposed that, excepting emergencies, it was acceptable to refuse care to certain trial attorneys and their families. After a heated debate the idea failed. The doctors were too ethical. Good to know someone is!

Tahlequah said...

The Truth About Trial Attorneys and Those Candidates They Support

Voting for candidates supported by trial attorney's opens the question who is most shameless. The candidate or the attorney?

Did you know trial attorneys are the second largest contributors to the Democratic Party? What does that say about Republican candidates that take their money?

Look at the damage done to Arizonians who are unable to see doctors. The women who give birth on the side of the road in our state. Those who die because there is no neurosurgeon available.

There are enormous financial rewards by ignoring the facts and choose to do great damage to countless medical practioners and the patients they serve.
Thanks to trial attorneys, malpractice law is not about the search for justice, it's become a lotto jackpot!

These lawsuits are hurting the nation and we feel it here in Arizona. By reinforcing the idea there is always someone to blame when things go wrong, we ALL lose.
There are times when only the hand of God can change the outcome.

Shame on Steve Huffman from taking support from this unscrupulous, two-bit snake oil organization. He claims to represent and respect us-does he think we're idiots?

Is it true Toni Hellon has also accepted their contributions? If anyone knows, please share the information!

If you are still unconvinced the Trial Attorneys are poison consider this: At the 2004 American Medical Association annual meeting it was proposed that, excepting emergencies, it was acceptable to refuse care to certain trial attorneys and their families. After the heated debate the idea failed. The doctors were too ethical. Good to know someone is!