President Obama has spent the week furiously trying to put lipstick on the pig that is his healthcare reform bill. He gave a fine speech last week which was noticeably short (by design) on specifics, and one which left out any plausible way to pay for the program. Trying to defang critics, he generalized a number of areas where centrist Democrats and Republican ideas would be incorporated. One of these was a brief mention of tort reform.
Color me uinmpressed.
As with his summer speech at the American Medical Society (AMA) meeting that was met with boos, the president has over and over made it clear he is not interested in addressing real medical tort reform. If you took the most disingenuous elements of lawyer-speak mixed equal parts with the opacity of politican-speak you end up with the President's message to his Democratic trial bar donors (alongside organized labor, the most influential group in Democratic politics). ie "Relax boys, THERE WILL BE NO REAL RESTRICTIONS ON YOUR ABILITY TO SUE DOCTORS, Amen!"
From the 60 Minutes interview tonight(click here for video)
KROFT: If it came down to getting this plan passed would you be willing to do more in the area of tort reform and malpractice insurance? Would you be willing to agree to caps, for example, on malpractice judgments?
OBAMA: You know what I would be willing to do is to consider any ideas out there that would actually work in terms of reducing costs, improving the quality of patient care. So far the evidence I've seen is that caps will not do that. But there are a range of ideas that are out there, offered by doctors' organizations like the AMA, that I think we can explore.....
KROFT: And the conventional wisdom has been that the reason that the House has always voted against any kind of malpractice reform or tort reform was because of the heavy contributions from the trial lawyers.
OBAMA: That is the conventional wisdom. And I think there's also been philosophical issues and differences about whether or not patients who really have been subject to negligence, whether it's fair to just say to them, "You know what? You can only get a certain amount, no matter how egregious it is."
That is nothing but double-speak goblety-gook which avoid any commitment to do anything. At least Democratic leader Howard Dean had the balls to recently come out and say that tort reform is not going to be in the bill because of the relationship of the party to the trial bar.