American Elephants

Tort Reform? What the Heck is a Tort? by The Elephant's Child
September 18, 2009, 2:37 am
Filed under: Economy, Health Care, Law, Politics | Tags: , ,

In his address to a joint session of Congress last week, President Obama said that he had heard from some doctors that some medical procedures that were unnecessary were being performed because of a fear of medical malpractice lawsuits.  Rather interesting that he’s just hearing about it now, for it has been a major problem for doctors for years.

Medicine is not an exact science.  A doctor can do his very best, and yet the patient does not respond.  The procedure that is best practice for most people turns out not to be right for one particular patient. Doctors, understandably perform defensive medicine, ordering extra tests to be sure.

There are medical mysteries.  Doctors are human and mistakes happen.  Not all mistakes are the result of medical malpractice.  When a loved one dies, or is injured, people are often very angry with the doctor — sometimes justifiably, sometimes not.

When a person is injured because of the actions of a medical professional, and there is a lawsuit, damages come in two forms.  Damages for the injury aim to make the patient whole for that injury. Beyond that, there have come to be damages for “pain and suffering”— that is, damages not for what actually happened to you, but for  your bad feelings.

Creative trial lawyers have, in some cases, learned to play on the emotions of jurors to award the suffering victim outlandish awards — most of which goes to the lawyer.  Tort reform aims to keep these awards at a sensible level.  A neurosurgeon may have to pay $200,000 to $250,000 per year for malpractice insurance.

Obama said as a bipartisan gesture, he was willing to try tort reform as a pilot project somewhere. But there is no need for a pilot project.  Texas enacted malpractice reform in 1995, and Doctors and hospitals are using their liability insurance to expand services. Texas hospitals have expanded charity care by 24 percent.

According to Peggy Venable writing in the Washington Post:

The total impact of tort reforms implemented since 1995 includes gains of $112.5 billion in spending each year as well as almost 499,900 jobs in the state.  The fiscal stimulus to the state from judicial reforms is almost a $2.6 billion per year increase in state revenue.  In addition, these reforms are responsible for approximately 430,000 individuals having health insurance than  would otherwise, and there has been an increase in the number of doctors, particularly in regions which have been facing severe shortages.

Tort reform has long been opposed by trial lawyers, one of Democrats largest political support groups. President Obama has assigned the job of a pilot project for tort reform to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  Secretary Sebelius was a director of the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association for nearly ten years. That pilot project may take some time.

Betraying Our Friends and Appeasing Our Enemies Is Not the Way to a Successful Foreign Policy. by The Elephant's Child
September 18, 2009, 1:24 am
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Middle East, National Security | Tags: , ,


Today, September 17th, was the 70th Anniversary of the Soviet Invasion of Poland.  President Obama celebrated by scrapping the missile defense sites that were planned for Poland and the Czech Republic.

Poland was informed in a midnight phone call.  The issue of the missile defense sites had caused constant bluster and threats from Putin and his fellows in the Kremlin who pretended to believe that the small number of interceptor missiles was somehow a threat to Russia although the system is purely defensive.

Obama’s case is that the Iranian ballistic missile threat “has not emerged” as soon as originally estimated, and that currently proven tactical antimissile capability  is better suited and more ready for deployment against the current threat.  This refers to the Aegis-missile ship patrols in either the Black Sea or the Baltic.

Unfortunately this was also the day that the International Atomic Energy Agency experts expressed their agreement that Iran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is on the way to developing a missile system able to carry an atomic warhead, according to a secret report  seen by the Associated Press.

Obama spoke about the decision today with a lot of  bluster and little clarity, but what it seems to boil down to is an attempt to pacify Putin in the hopes that he will help out with Iran, which Putin  has declared that he has no intention of doing.

The Russians seem to think that they should be free to threaten Europe with anything from nuclear annihilation to cut-off of energy, and that anything that interferes with that is provocative.

The concession to Russian sensibilities will gain America nothing, and weakens America’s bargaining position.  Obama’s justification is weak in its assumption that defense against a longer-range missile is not needed  on Obama’s planning scale.  There isn’t any basis for this assumption, and it makes Obama appear weak and easily manipulated.

The missile-defense site in Eastern Europe  which as well as protecting our European allies was meant to be the third arm of defense against long-range missiles approaching North America from the Arctic, the Far East and the Middle East. The idea of more than one defense seems to have escaped consideration.

It’s hard to understand the Obama view.  He has pandered to Saudi Arabia, which has rejected his approaches.  Approaches to Syria have resulted in increased violence in Iraq, interference with Lebanese democracy and encouragement of Palestinian extremism.  Russia’s reset seems to leave them free to interfere with their neighbors. Cuba has rebuffed Obama’s approaches.  Anti-Americanism has increased in Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey.  It seems that it has little to do with the America’s imperial ambitions and does not relate to specific administrations.

American actions have much farther-reaching consequences that the Obama administration seems to grasp.  Perceptions by other nations and their national interests may have little to do with Obama’a charisma and speechmaking gift.  Our friends want to know that they can depend on us.  Our enemies need to know that we are stalwart, and mean what we say.

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