Health Care, Lobbying and Contributions — Try a New Angle

USA Today’s lead page one story today is “Industry donates to drug plan foes” focusing on the pharmaceutical industry. The sidebar looks at a related issue of generic pharmaceuticals competing with “biologic” drugs, “Industry donates to drug plan foes.”

Meanwhile, at The Examiner, columnist Tim Carney submits yet another dispatch about big business running the country, “How industry kidnapped Obama’s health ‘reform’.”

Well, good. Report those stories. The same stories…over and over…ad nauseum…refreshing them every quarter when new lobbying or campaign contribution reports are out.

But maybe there’s a different and equally important story to tell. Yes, it’s the one we’ve been harping on for three weeks now, but it’s valid and woefully underreported: the role of the trial attorneys in blocking medical malpractice reform or federal liability limits.

To repeat ourselves (over and over), we’ve yet to see any major newspaper or wire service or broadcast outlet report on the gathering of thousands of trial lawyers in San Francisco at the American Association for Justice’s summer convention, which ends today. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a key player in the Congressional health care debate, addressed a powerful special interest and political constituency, and no mainstream media cared. (With apologies to LegalNewsline.) The peripatetic Tim Kaine lights down in San Francisco for political purposes and nada.

So here’s a new angle. On September 24-25 the AAJ is holding a seminar and Continuing Legal Education session at The Venetian in Las Vegas, “Litigating Toxic Tort, Pharmaceutical, and Medical Device Cases Seminar.” It’s two days in which attorneys will be trained how to make the U.S. health care system more expensive. And they get CLE credit for it!

Just consider the morning session, 8:30 a.m. to noon, as listed on the agenda, which includes sessions on the hot new topic of Chinese drywall, discovery in the post-Levine world — that is, the opportunity for more lawsuits against drugmakers in state instead of federal courts — and being prepared when lawyers try to dismiss personal injury suits because of statutes of limitation or assumed risk.

The two-day schedule also includes sessions on how to more effectively sue the manufacturers of drugs and devices.

The list of faculty is revealing too, including an attorney who sued pharmaceutical companies on behalf of the attorney general of West Virginia, and a university research fellow, litigator and former staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Indeed, there’s a list of 13 attorneys who, if they succeed in their efforts and inculcating the session’s students, will drive up the costs of health care in America.

There’s big money being spent, political influence being wielded, and our nation’s health care costs being driven through the roof while medical innovation is inhibited. So here’s a story idea: “Personal injury lawyers work to drive up health care costs.”

It’s a reasonable expection, that journalists covering the health care beat should apply the same kind of scrutiny to the plaintiffs’ bar as they do to the pharmaceutical, hospital and insurance industries. How about it, USA Today? Page one, above the fold…

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