American Elephants

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at CPAC 2012 by The Elephant's Child

A tremendous speech from a courageous governor who has turned his state around in spite of constant attacks from the public-sector unions. They are being forced to pay part of their own health-care costs, and contribute to their own pensions — less than most people contribute. We’ve all seen the demonstrations that Walker endured.

Big Labor is pouring money and union workers into Wisconsin to defeat Walker in a recall election.  They cannot allow his mild reforms to stand because the union movement is dying, only the public sector unions are growing. The Obama administration has done everything they can to pay unions back for their support. Obama gave the UAW a third ownership (for free) of Government Motors — expensive for the taxpayers who may never be repaid. The administration is trying to reform the labor laws so people are forced to join and restrained from leaving. Lots of payback going on.

Governor Walker and the Republicans in the legislature have been truly courageous. He needs your backing to combat the enormous recall effort by the unions. He needs contributions and volunteers. ( If he fails, it will be a long time before any politician dares to display such political courage again.

Senator Tom Coburn M.D. Actually Has Real Experience in Health Care. by The Elephant's Child
February 25, 2010, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Health Care | Tags: , ,

Senator Tom Coburn, a physician, made a strong case for tort reform. We can cut costs there by 15 percent, he says. That, in turn, will increase access. When health care costs 15% less, more people will find it affordable.

He argues that Medicaid has much higher rates of fraud than private plans, and makes the case for tackling lawsuit abuse, which spurs defensive medicine.

Obama claims that he has adopted “all the good ideas” on fraud and abuse, but that is not true. Democrats will do nothing to offend the trial lawyers who provide so much support for Democrats.

Max Baucus (D-MT) responded to the need for tort reform by pointing out that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius is working to come up with ways to end lawsuits “before they become bad lawsuits.” Whatever that means.
The problem is not simply lawsuits, but the extra tests and extra procedures that doctors and hospitals order to protect themselves from lawsuits.

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.

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