March 19, 2009

Wouldn't it be great if all these malpractice "reformers" actually looked at reforming medical practices - instead of trying to limit patients' ability to recover damages from bad medicine? But of course, politicians will always see the solution in light of insurance company interests. Isn't it funny how "reform" always means citizens get less while corporations get more?

Perhaps they need to understand that We, The People just aren't in the mood to hear any more "blame the victim" rhetoric for their financial problems - the result of their bad choices:

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration and key congressional Democrats are taking a hard look at the nation's medical malpractice system as part of a broader health care overhaul.

"It's an essential piece for there to be enduring reform - reform that will stick and will get a significant bipartisan vote in the United States Senate," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), who has a bipartisan health bill that includes incentives to get states to enact malpractice reforms.

Reviving the issue could provoke a fierce fight from trial lawyers, who, along with doctors, have the most at stake in suits for medical malpractice.

Actually, those of us at the mercy of bad doctors have the most at stake. Funny, how the patients get lost in the debate.

Already the trial lawyers' lobby is preparing to distribute a brief on Capitol Hill casting malpractice as a small cost in the overall health system. Also, the brief, citing an Institute of Medicine finding, says as many as 98,000 deaths in the U.S. each year result from medical error.

Trial lawyers and their Democratic Senate allies helped kill attempts under the Bush administration to cap lawsuit payments for punitive damages and pain and suffering in malpractice lawsuits. The Congressional Budget Office says such caps could save the federal government $4.3 billion from 2010-2019.

While capping judgments probably remains a nonstarter in the debate, many top Democrats and administration officials say something must be done to curb medical malpractice costs to help pay for revamping the nation's $2.4 trillion health system.

President Obama told business leaders last week that ideas to save money like "medical liability issues - I think all those things have to be on the table."

Okay, if they want real malpractice reforms, they need to do things like this. Doctor attendance at malpractice-avoidance training seminars will be mandatory, not optional as it is now. Studies dating back decades show the same thing: Patients don't sue because they got a bad outcome. They sue when doctors forced them into a decision they didn't really understand. It's the communication, stupid.

They'll also require use of computerized orders. We all know doctors are famous for bad handwriting, but it's not so cute once you realize sometimes it's on purpose - so a jury can't read their writing. Computerized records will also help avoid the 1.5 million deaths-by-medication errors per year (not to mention the $3.5 billion a year it costs to treat those errors).

Details of all malpractice filings - not just the cases which go to trial - should be public record. Period. There's a compelling public interest. Yes, some of them are frivolous, and just like your credit files, doctors should have the right to attach their own explanation. But interested consumers have a right to know if their doctor (the same one who's always whining about his high malpractice premiums) is paying high premiums because he's a bad doctor.

Right now, it's almost impossible for a "bad" doctor to lose his or her medical license; for many, it's as simple as moving to another state. Yet a small percentage of doctors accounts for 95% of malpractice claims. POLICE THE INDUSTRY.

We'll probably see these reforms happen right about the time you look out your window and see those hordes of flying pigs.

Can you help us out?

For nearly 20 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.