I was inspired to choose a picture of the two-faced Roman god, Janus, to place next to this post. In ancient Rome, Janus was used to symbolize change and transitions, but also associated with the later metaphors of being two-faced or speaking out of both sides of your mouth. Our silver tongued commander in chief managed to do that very well in an anticipated speech before doctors today.
In thee speech before members of the American Medical Association (AMA) today, President Obama was booed. What set that off? His position that any element of true tort reform for medical malpractice was off the table. Up to that point he was being well received and was discussing some fuzzy notions of medical tort reform and the concepts of standardized practices which could offer some imaginary shield of immunity.
"Don't get too excited yet," he warned the cheering AMA members. "Just hold onto your horses here, guys. . . . I want to be honest with you. I'm not advocating caps on malpractice awards."
That last sentence shows his lack of backbone and highlights the way that trial lawyers are one of the tails that wag the dog of the Democratic party. (Screwing Chrysler bond holders last month by ignoring established bankruptcy law to favor labor unions showed us one of the other tails BTW). There has been feverish lobbying on this issue by lawyers to ensure that Democrats protect their interests in medical malpractice and medical product liability cases.
Hell even the logical idea that if a physician adheres to broad standards of care established by their peers they're by definition not committing malpractice is already being fought. The American Association for Justice, which represents trial lawyers and has met with Nancy-Ann DeParle, Mr. Obama’s liaison for health reform issues, to express its concerns. Linda Lipsen, the association’s chief lobbyist, said medical practice guidelines have been established by 'unregulated' medical societies and “should not be conclusive” in a court of law. GIVE ME A BREAK!
From today's Wall Street Journal editorial, "Obama's Malpractice Gesture",
The trial bar and its Democratic allies say that the threat of lawsuits promotes better care and assures accountability. But they've fought even modest changes that would offer liability protection if doctors adhere to evidence-based guidelines. Mr. Obama showed again with his AMA speech that he's willing to nod at the concerns of his political opponents and take media credit for brave truth-telling, only to dump his conciliation if it offends liberal interest groups.
In a nutshell, if you do not explicitly remove the jackpot justice aspects of medical malpractice thru strict caps on non-economic compensation then you've achieved nothing. There's a brand new review of torts by Lawrence McQuillan of the Pacific Research Institute and it discusses what specific maneuvers and reforms have achieved true reduction in frivolous lawsuits. Click to read "Tort Law Tally"
The cost of defensive medicine, unnecessary tests and procedures designed to mitigate malpractice claims, is elusive but has been estimated at over $125 billion per year. That's real money folks. If even 15-20% of that could be saved annually, it goes a long way towards making the math of financing Pres. Obama's plan more plausible. Right now we are being LIED to about the cost of any major healthcare shift and LIED to about what steps would be required to fund it. (Hello rationing and the VAT tax).
I ended my last post with the comment that, "It's this attitude and the distorted liability culture that Obama, et al. are going to be working against to make any gains in health care reform. We are our own worst enemy!". Once again I feel vindicated in that.