Mr. Fancy Pants – A video on Tort Reform

December 8, 2009

Mr. Fancy Pants
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h85j1vNxd8A]
This short movie should be viewed by everyone. It ought to be made into a commercial.

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Blaming The Victim is What Tort Reform Is All About

December 8, 2009

Kincaid hits the nail right on when he points out that if we want to compare the US to other countries in terms of litigation, then we have to look at other social safety nets other countries provide to their citizens so as ot eliminate the need for litigation. If the victim of a malpractice is taken care of by a system of social safety net, then there is no need to look to insurance payment for the additional medical bills and possibly future medical bills incurred by the victim. If we want to look to Tort Reform, we will have to reform many other areas of our social system as well.

The Right wants to blame the victim–That is not the answer.

Health Care: “Tort Reform”

As the other side is always quick to point out, nowhere else in the developed world has this much litigation. Of course, nowhere else is there any such animal as an unpaid medical bill, and support for those who have lost their income tends to be better. People don’t need to find someone else to blame to have their needs taken care of. Other countries don’t have our level of litigation, but, then, they don’t need it.

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Keep Focus on Health Reform – Tort Reform Is A Red Herring!

December 7, 2009

Medical malpractice reform steers debate off course

Lawmakers in Washington should look to Florida as a example. Since caps on noneconomic damages and attorney fees were implemented in the state five years ago, malpractice claims paid by insurers have declined, and insurers have enjoyed consistent profits. Yet medical costs have continued to rise and are now among the highest in the nation, demonstrating that malpractice insurance premiums and jury awards make up a very small part of the overall cost of medicine.

While doctors have enjoyed lower insurance premiums and insurers have seen strong and steady profits, medical errors continue to claim thousands of lives every year, and serious errors happen more in the U.S. than in other rich countries, as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently found. In Florida and other states with caps, the victims are finding it very difficult to retain qualified attorneys to take on their cases because the economics of the system have become heavily skewed in favor of the healthcare providers and insurers.

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Some Quick and "Fun" Facts

December 6, 2009

· Medical malpractice is a tiny percentage of health care costs – less than one and a half percent of overall spending – according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Restricting patients’ legal rights would have little to no effect on premiums or health care costs.

· Medical malpractice suits are less than one percent of the entire civil caseload, and have been declining for nearly a decade.

· The GAO and CBO have found no evidence of so-called “defensive medicine,” instead determining that doctors run additional tests to generate more income or help diagnose patients.

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Tort Reform Myths Are Just Myths

December 6, 2009

Enough with the tort reform myths

Lawyers and lawsuits have been attacked politically for years, but in reality, civil lawsuits shine a spotlight on wrongdoing, call the offenders to account, deter future misbehavior and provide justice for people who have been hurt.

Repeated studies have shown that approximately 100,000 people die each year due to medical malpractice in our nation’s hospitals. These are not simply bad outcomes that were unavoidable; they are instances where physicians or hospitals failed to meet the normal standard of care – where other physicians deemed the damage done to have been avoidable.

If a hospital, for example, allows an expectant mother to lie in one of its labor rooms, fails to notice for several hours that the fetal monitor shows the fetus in distress, and the child is born severely brain damaged, should that institution be protected from a lawsuit? How is that family going to pay for a lifetime of care for their child? What incentive is that hospital going to have to correct its procedures to prevent such an incident from ever happening again?

State authorities normally don’t have the power to impose more than minor sanctions in cases like this. The one avenue that leads to a fair outcome is a lawsuit. That family should not be told there is an arbitrary cap on the amount of damages they can receive. They should have the right to have their case heard and decided by a judge and jury in an open courtroom.

This is not a new debate. No one likes to be sued and companies, hospitals and insurers have argued for years that lawsuits should be curbed. They point to a few cases where courts awarded large sums to injured parties. But they ignore some key facts:

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The “lawsuit explosion” is a myth. In fact, the opposite is true. The number of tort filings in New York State actually decreased by 30% from 1998 to 2008. The total number of tort cases filed was down from 81,952 to 57,023.
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These cases often take years to come to a conclusion. Lawyers working for contingency fees don’t get paid unless they win. It would be ludicrous for someone in that position to file a frivolous lawsuit.
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There are checks and balances in the system. If someone files a frivolous lawsuit, a judge can sanction the lawyer for doing so and dismiss the case. If a jury awards too large an amount, a judge can reduce it. If the losing side disagrees with the result, they can appeal.

It’s easy to see the benefits to the individuals involved and to our society of these lawsuits. Companies that have polluted the environment have been deterred by members of communities who have filed lawsuits. Automakers that have sold unsafe cars have been deterred by lawsuits. Manufacturers of items ranging from garage door openers to children’s toys have adhered to higher safety standards after lawsuits showed their products to be defective.

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Tort Reform Benefits Only The Insurance Companies

December 1, 2009

I have heard over and over again that the States where some sort of Tort Reform has been enacted, premiums have decreased. Evidently, in Texas that is not so. The entire claim is suspicious. Tort Reform benefits only the insurance companies and their profit–and as is the case in Texas–we the tax payer are subsidizing the insurance companies’ profit margins!

Tort Reform Unlikely to Cut Health Care Costs

Annual jury awards and legal settlements involving doctors amounts to “a drop in the bucket” in a country that spends $2.3 trillion annually on health care, Amitabh Chandra, another Harvard University economist, recently told Bloomberg News. Chandra estimated the cost of jury awards at about $12 per person in the U.S., or about $3.6 billion. Insurer WellPoint Inc. has also said that liability awards are not what’s driving premiums.

And a 2004 report by the Congressional Budget Office said medical malpractice makes up only 2 percent of U.S. health spending. Even “significant reductions” would do little to curb health-care expenses, it concluded.

A study by Bloomberg also found that the proportion of medical malpractice verdicts among the top jury awards in the U.S. declined over the last 20 years. “Of the top 25 awards so far this year, only one was a malpractice case.” Moreover, at least 30 states now cap damages in medical lawsuits.

The experience of Texas in capping damage awards is a good example. Contrary to Perry’s claims, a recent analysis by Atul Gawande in the New Yorker found that while Texas tort reforms led to a cap on pain-and-suffering awards at two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, which led to a dramatic decline in lawsuits, McAllen, Texas is one of the most expensive health care markets in the country. In 2006, “Medicare spent fifteen thousand dollars per person enrolled in McAllen, he finds, which is almost twice the national average — although the average town resident earns only $12,000 a year. “Medicare spends three thousand dollars more per person here than the average person earns.”

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$2.9 Trillion In Favor Of A Public Plan

December 1, 2009

Public Plan Would Save Nearly $2 Trillion

The Commonwealth Fund asserted that even if a final healthcare reform package omitted a public plan (as many Republicans want), other proposed measures could still rack up $1 trillion in savings from 2010 to 2020.

The public-plan option would save about $2.9 trillion, while reforming the healthcare system with the current, private insurance market would save $1.2 trillion, according to researchers led by Cathy Schoen, the fund’s senior vice president for research and lead author of the report.

The report adds additional comparative data to the debate on the controversial public plan idea as Congress works on a healthcare reform package.

On the one hand, the findings add some credence to Democrats’ claim that a government-run insurance plan would help reduce out-of-control spending, but also predicts significant savings even without the public plan.

“Each of the paths we analyzed would take significant steps toward ensuring that everyone has access to high-quality, affordable health care,” said Schoen.

But she emphasized the report’s conclusion that a public insurance plan paying doctors and hospitals at Medicare rates would save close to $2 trillion more.

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