Something’s Missing in the Health Care Debate

We return to the topic of the litigation lobby’s influence on the health care debate in Congress, the powerful special interest that has escaped scrutiny from the major media even as the trial lawyers block any effort to restrain medical liability costs.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave a floor speech yesterday that addressed the political dynamic, remarks entitled, “Something’s Missing.” The opening:

Throughout the debate over health care reform, the administration has made a point of asking various stakeholders to come together and do their part: Doctors and hospitals are being asked to find significant savings; seniors are being asked to make major sacrifices, and so are the states. Every week, it seems, the White House hosts an event aimed at showcasing some sacrifice being made by one group or another — every group, that is, except personal injury lawyers.

It’s a glaring omission, since everyone knows that the constant threat of lawsuits is one of the reasons health care premiums for families have skyrocketed more than 100 percent over the past decade and the primary reason that many doctors today spend a fortune on malpractice insurance even before they open up their doors for business. To take just one example, neurosurgeons in Miami can expect to spend more on malpractice insurance every year than many families in Miami can expect to spend on a new home.

This is a serious problem, everyone knows it, and yet we don’t hear a word about it from any of the Democratic-led committees in Congress that are working on reform.

And the conclusion:

Americans don’t want a government takeover of health care. They want reforms that everyone can understand and all of us can agree on. And nothing could be simpler or more straightforward than putting an end to lawsuits that drive up costs and put doctors out of business. Americans don’t want grand schemes. They want common sense proposals. Medical liability reform would be a very good place to start.

Here’s the media coverage we found this morning of the Senator’s remarks. Sparse.

This is not a purely partisan issue. A very interesting report from LegalNewsLine notes that the trial lawyer association’s lobbyist, Linda Lipsen, is worried that liability reform may gain legislative ground because of bipartisanship. Speaking at the American Association for Justice convention in San Francisco, she cautioned that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) could support tort reform in a Senate Finance Committee vote.

Lipsen told trial lawyers in the AAJ’s Birth Trauma Litigation Group meeting this week that the lawmakers are “business Democrats that aren’t necessarily that great for us,” referring to plaintiffs’ lawyers.

That’s quite an implicit admission: If you care about business, you’re bad for the trial lawyers.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • John Cothern says:

    Health Savings Accounts help consumers, since the money being spent is theirs, communicate more directly with their providers to agree upon diagnostics and other medical procedures. These agreements, if doctors would take one additional step (a check list agreement), that would help deter frivolous law suits. Prior agreements are equally important as the medical procedures themselves. Health care is between the doctor and the patient, and the Law cannot be present at the outset. Let’s put an end to ambulance chasing!

    The President, being an attorney, wants to see that all law suits regarding malpractice receive the proper and full attention to assure the maximum awards are directed to Law Firms and not the plaintiffs. Let’s (1) cap pain and suffering, and (2) pre-negotiate compensatory awards for law firms. You lawyers who are so desperate for the work, should have to “bid” to get the contract and case. Every other business has to bid to make profits. Law firms should do likewise!

    The Ford rollover case recently settled is a classic example of judgements that only favor the Law Firms.

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