Trial Lawyers Celebrate Health Care Laws: We Won!

An editorial in The Washington Times today notes President Obama’s prominent pledges of being open to adopt Republican-supported plans for medical liability reform in the health care bill. From “Trial lawyers love Obamacare“:

Those pledges – which Mr. Obama made twice in major public forums – were worthless. The final version of Obamacare, as signed into law, is a dream come true for big-money plaintiffs’ lawyers.

That was the message in a letter the president of the American Association for Justice wrote to his membership and posted on the group’s Web site. The misnamed AAJ – which was formerly and more accurately called the Association of Trial Lawyers of America – is the house organ for the national plaintiffs’ bar and a major source of campaign cash for congressional Democrats.

Reporting on reformers’ efforts to protect doctors and hospitals from predatory lawsuits, AAJ President Anthony Tarricone wrote, “I am very pleased to report that the health care bill is clear of any [such] provisions. … While there is a provision for demonstration projects, it provides an absolute opt-out clause for plaintiffs at any time.”

Tarricone’s tone is boastful and his claims dishonest. From his e-mail message, posted at the AAJ website.

Whether reading the newspaper or watching C-SPAN, all of you saw the constant assault against trial lawyers and injured patients. Many opponents of these health care bills had no substantive solutions of their own, and in turn, levied attacks on our clients. It was distressing, but at the same time, it was our call-to-action.

Who attacked injured patients? Who levied attacks on the AAJ’s clients? No one we ever saw. The charge is  just big lie buncombe. As for “no substantive solutions of their own,” we direct you to the National Association of Manufacturers’ health care principles, which highlights substantive solutions to the failures of U.S. health care, it should go without saying, do not attack injured patients. Separately, Republican members of Congress proposed detailed alternatives to the President’s plan, including medical liability reform.

We do not yet find the final statutory language on the state demonstration projects, but the Kaiser Family Foundation has summarized the provision:

Medical malpractice * Award five-year demonstration grants to states to develop, implement, and evaluate alternatives to current tort litigations. Preference will be given to states that have developed alternatives in consultation with relevant stakeholders and that have proposals that are likely to enhance patient safety by reducing medical errors and adverse events and are likely to improve access to liability insurance. (Funding appropriated for five years beginning in fiscal year 2011)

What’s missing? Any provisions addressing cost control. And for that, the trial lawyers are celebrating.

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A note about media coverage: The Point of Law post was written by this blogger, and Legal NewsLine is a web publication backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Washington Times piece is an editorial.

So the only major media outlet to cover as news the trial lawyers’ boasting about blocking health care reform is The Wall Street Journal. A salute to the WSJ, but where are the other reporters who are usually so quick to decry the role of special interests and lobbyists in the health care debate?

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