Tag: healthcare

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.

More …

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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Company Accounting Charges Will Reach $14 Billion

From the American Benefits Council, which represents large U.S. corporations, a news release, “Exorbitant accounting hit to businesses will continue unless health law’s retiree drug subsidy provision is reversed“:

“For months, the American Benefits Council, along with several employers and labor unions, warned that the retiree drug subsidy tax in the health care legislation would impose an enormous hit on company financial statements as soon as the bill was signed into law,” Council President James A. Klein said today. “The recent announcements by major U.S. companies have captured Wall Street’s attention, while the Obama Administration fails to acknowledge their significance. Since the president has made clear that job creation is his top priority, we urge the Administration and Congress to remove this obstacle to economic recovery.

And …

“Over the next several days, many companies will be compelled to either take a hit on their earnings or decide to move retirees into the Medicare Part D program.” Klein said. “As our recent research report clearly shows, as more retirees are moved from employer plans to Medicare Part D, government outlays will increase, and the shift from employer retiree drug subsidy programs to Medicare Part D is likely to be significant. In the end, this so-called revenue raising provision may actually cost the government money.” A separate study, conducted by the Towers Watson consulting firm, reported that unless companies change their benefit plans, the aggregate accounting charge would be nearly $14 billion.

Safe prediction, Mr. Klein. Today’s news is: “Boeing Expects $150 Million Charge In 1Q For Health-Revamp Impact.” More …

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A Week’s Review of Labor’s Power

Mark Hemingway of The Washington Examiner embarked Monday on a weeklong series of columns about the political power of organized labor, commenting that, “Whatever wants, labor gets.”  It’s hard to argue with the thesis when talking about the Obama Administration, but it’s not entirely true when elective representative bodies like the U.S. Senate are involved: Labor has not gotten the Employee Free Choice Act…so far.

Today’s column is “Big Labor fills the ranks of Big Government,” discussing the recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, the confirmation of Patricia Smith to be the Department of Labor’s solicitor, and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis herself.

On Monday, Hemingway wrote, “Stuffing union coffers with taxpayer cash,” leading with the example of the anti-democratic unionization of daycare workers in Michigan.

One day last fall, approximately 40,000 private day care owners in Michigan woke up to discover they had become members of a public sector union. Most had no idea what was coming.

Here’s how it happened: The United Auto Workers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees worked with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to conduct a vote-by-mail union election.

Of the 40,000 day care workers in the state, only 6,000 responded to the ballot they received in the mail. But that was enough for the state to declare all of the day care owners would henceforth be represented by the newly organized Child Care Providers Together Michigan union.

Governor Ted Kulongoski of Oregon and former Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York also signed executive orders to promote the unionization of private sector daycare workers in their respective states. (See Fordham Urban Law Journal.)

The actions by these governors, heavily supported by organized labor, seems even more economically ominous given a program included in the new health care law. Jeffrey Birnbaum in The Washington Times reports on the issue in a column, “The not-so-Class Act“:

The health legislation signed into law last week by President Obama includes a provision called the CLASS Act, which provides long-term care at home. Few people know about it, but experts agree that it could well explode the federal budget deficit down the road.

The Community Living Services and Support (CLASS) Act was designed to assist people who need help with basic daily tasks and are willing to pay for in-home assistance. The plan, which was long championed by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, would, in effect, enable elderly and disabled people to stay out of nursing homes.

People who paid into the program for five years could qualify for federal subsidies to purchase in-home care. As Birnbaum argues, laudable goals but fiscally unsustainable. We predict when the rules are written, the only in-home care providers eligible for the program will be subject to (forced into) union membership. The SEIU smiles.

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Doing for Energy and the Economy What Health Care Reform…

Former Vice President Al Gore seizes on enactment of the health care law as the example of sweeping change he hopes to accomplish by limiting the emissions produced by economic activity.
In an e-mail to subscribers to the Repower America list, entitled, “The fierce urgency of NEXT,” the Veep says:

Health care reform is the law of the land, and its inspiring passage has made one thing clear: At this moment in America, sweeping change really is possible.

And sweeping change is exactly what it will take to address the climate crisis and fight for clean energy here at home and around the world.

That’s why we need to seize this new momentum right now. Repower America has a strong game plan to make this happen in the weeks ahead — but we can’t do it without your participation and your support.

In recognition of this crucial moment, a generous donor has agreed to match every gift we receive between now and midnight on March 31st dollar-for-dollar.

So donate now.

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Vitamin D Critical to Good Health; New Tax Hits Tanning Salons

NPR’s “Morning Edition” news magazine this morning carried a segment about doctors who now regard Vitamin D deficiency as a major health problem in the United States, but one easily treated.

“There’s overwhelming evidence … that increasing your vitamin D intake can make substantial improvement in your overall health and welfare,” says Dr. Michael Holick of Boston University. “And there is no downside to increasing your vitamin D intake. As a result I think that most people are now getting on the bandwagon.

Holick is leading the band. Forty years ago, he discovered the active form of the vitamin, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. He has written several popular books on the subject and has another one, The Vitamin D Solution, coming out next month. Its cover calls vitamin D deficiency “our most common health problem.”

Meanwhile, in the new health care bill…

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The Campaign Continues

Politico, “Next front: Selling what Congress did:

Starting Monday, a coalition of progressive groups — from labor unions to health care advocates — will sink millions of dollars into television advertising and sponsor grass-roots events in swing House districts thanking Democrats for passing the law and highlighting its importance for average Americans.

“We’re going to let our friends know we are going to be there for them,” said AFSCME President Gerald McEntee. “We expect in three months, the American people will understand the bill and they will be happy and satisfied with it.”

More on Rep. Henry Waxman demanding companies explain their accounting charges for health care, from Andy McCarthy, a former U.S. prosecutor, at National Review’s The Corner, “Thugocracy Whipsaws Capitalism“:

I worked for many years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in whose backyard was Wall Street.

If a company like AT&T failed to make a legally mandated restatement of its financial position while continuing to participate in the capital markets, it would be investigated and the responsible management officials would likely find themselves prosecuted while the SEC, concurrently, went after the company and its officials in civil enforcement suits. There are prosecutors and investigators who would salivate at the prospect of doing such a career-making case.

If we are now under a system where disclosure gets you a public whipping and other threats by the Powers That Be while nondisclosure promises the ruinous expenses of defending against criminal investigations and civil enforcement, this is no longer anything but a thugocracy.

If history is any guide, we’ll soon see inventive class action lawyers join in the harassment, suing companies that make the accounting charges.

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Companies Start to Pay for Health Care Law, Accusations Fly

Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is calling major corporate executives to a hearing to challenge the accounting charges their companies have made in response to passage of the health care legislation. (Bloomberg, “AT&T, Deere CEOs Called by Waxman to Back Up Health-Bill Costs.”)

From the committee’s homepage:

The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing on April 21, 2010, regarding claims by Caterpillar, Verizon, and Deere that provisions in the new health care reform law could adversely affect their company’s ability to provide health insurance to their employees. These assertions appear to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs.

They’re not “claims,” they are financial and accounting decisions the companies are required by law to make and report. President John Engler of the National Association of Manufacturers addressed the company charges in an interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto Friday. Engler:

There was a suggestion, “Oh, these companies are overstating this, they’re making it up.” But, remember, the CEO and the CFO sign …under Sarbanes-Oxley under penalty of law the accuracy of the statements. They cannot make this up. Cannot!

The Administration originally tried to spin the charges as hyped or “irresponsible,” but the White House has obviously decided to change its approach. White House economic advisor Valerie Jarrett was just on ABC’s “This Week,” and she responded to the questions about the company charges as serious ones warranting a serious response.

Jarrett argued the companies will benefit more in the big picture, long run, from the health care legislation even with the charge offs. And, she continued, the White House has talked to the Business Roundtable during the drafting of the health care legislation, and agreed with the group’s request to delay parts of the law’s effects until 2013. So the White House now, after a little hemming and hawing, clearly regards the companies’ actions and businesses’ objections as legitimate.

If there’s anything that’s suspect, it’s the always hyperpoliticized accusations of the Oversight and Investigations panel. As The Wall Street Journal editorialized Saturday in “The ObamaCare Writedown“:

Black-letter financial accounting rules require that corporations immediately restate their earnings to reflect the present value of their long-term health liabilities, including a higher tax burden. Should these companies have played chicken with the Securities and Exchange Commission to avoid this politically inconvenient reality? Democrats don’t like what their bill is doing in the real world, so they now want to intimidate CEOs into keeping quiet.

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Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome

An increasingly popular analysis of the impact of the new health care law:

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Costs of the Health Care Bill Kick in Right Away

From Associated Press, “Companies say health care costs hard to swallow“: “The health care overhaul will cost U.S. companies billions and make them more likely to drop prescription drug coverage for retirees because of a change in how the government subsidizes those benefits.”

The points of reference are reports by Deere & Company, Caterpillar and Valero that the companies will take charges totaling hundreds of millions of dollars because of the loss of a federal deduction for prescription drug benefits. The move should come as no surprise to lawmakers or the White House. More from AP:

Industry groups say they lobbied hard against the change in the tax rules before it was added to the health care law over the winter.

“It was in all of our letters and communications that went up to the Hill, and the companies were heavily involved in that,” said Dena Battle, a tax specialist with the National Association of Manufacturers.

Nationwide, companies would take a $14 billion hit on their financial statements if all of the roughly 3,500 companies receiving the subsidies continued to do so, according to a study by Towers Watson, a human resources consulting firm.

The Wall Street Journal reports administration officials saying the companies are exaggerating the impact. From “Companies Take Health-Care Charges“:

“During the past year, I have heard from CEOs from across the country that skyrocketing premiums are crippling the competitiveness of their companies,” said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. “It is simply not responsible to suggest that the new health-care law is bad for business.”

In the litany of efforts to marginalize critics of the health care bill, that’s pretty mild, but please, Mr. Secretary. These companies are not issuing inflammatory news releases, they’re making official accounting judgments that are reported to the SEC. Making misleading or false statements, THAT would be irresponsible.

The Senate Republican caucus highlighted Caterpillar’s $100 million hit, recalling President Obama’s appearance at the company last year in support of the stimulus bill:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: So what’s happening at this company tells us a larger story about what’s happening with our nation’s economy, because, in many ways, you can measure America’s bottom line by looking at Caterpillar’s bottom line. (President Obama, Remarks To Caterpillar Employees, 2/12/09)

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Health Care Bill Has Quick, Expensive Impact

Reuters, “Deere sees $150 mln hit from healthcare reform“:

NEW YORK, March 25 (Reuters) – Farm equipment maker Deere & Co (DE.N) expects after-tax expenses to rise by $150 million this year as a result of the healthcare reform law President Barack Obama signed this week.

Most of the higher expense will come in Deere’s second quarter, the company said on Thursday. The expense was not included in the company’s earlier 2010 forecast, which called for net income of about $1.3 billion.

Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N) said on Wednesday it would take a $100 million after-tax charge to earnings in the first quarter because the new law will lower its tax deductions

Also, Bloomberg, “Obama Tax’s $14 Billion Charge Starts at Caterpillar

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