Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trial Lawyers Stonewalling Tort Reform

Philip K. Howard, the author of Life Without Lawyers, and a strong advocate of specialized health courts, offers some insight on the role of the trial lawyers' lobby in health coverage "reform":
Eliminating defensive medicine could save upwards of $200 billion in health-care costs annually, according to estimates by the American Medical Association and others. The cure is a reliable medical malpractice system that patients, doctors and the general public can trust.
But this is the one reform Washington will not seriously consider. That's because the trial lawyers, among the largest contributors to the Democratic Party, thrive on the unreliable justice system we have now...
The upshot is simple: A few thousand trial lawyers are blocking reform that would benefit 300 million Americans. This is not just your normal special-interest politics. It's a scandal—it is as if international-trade policy was being crafted in order to get fees for customs agents...
An effective justice system must reliably distinguish between good care and bad care. But trial lawyers trade on the unreliability of justice. It doesn't matter much whether the doctor did anything wrong—a lawyer can always come up with a theory of what might have been done differently. What matters most is the extent of the tragedy and that a case holds potential for pulling on a jury's heartstrings...
Unreliable justice is like pouring acid over the culture of health care.
According to Howard, 54 cents of each malpractice dollar goes to lawyers and administrative costs.

And further on the "you mislead" front, this just in from
Senate Finance Committee Democrats rejected a proposed a requirement that immigrants prove their identity with photo identification when signing up for federal healthcare programs.
Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that current law and the healthcare bill under consideration are too lax and leave the door open to illegal immigrants defrauding the government using false or stolen identities to obtain benefits.
Grassley's amendment was beaten back 10-13 on a party-line vote.

Court Brooms RatherGate Lawsuit

Shortly before the November 2004 election, Dan Rather and his producers aired a bogus story about President Bush's National Guard service that was meant to sabotage the president's reelection. It turned out that the anti-Bush story was based on forged documents, a fact that quickly emerged from the excellent work of several savvy Internet bloggers. CBS subsequently put Rather out to pasture, and he sued, despite continuing to take home $6 million per year. A court has now tossed the lawsuit:
A New York state appeals court on Tuesday dismissed former TV newsman Dan Rather's lawsuit against CBS Corp in which Rather claimed he was made a scapegoat in a scandal over a 2004 report on then-President George W. Bush's military record.
The ruling on Tuesday by a panel of judges of the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division said Rather's $70 million complaint should be dismissed in its entirety and that a lower court erred in denying CBS's motion to throw out the lawsuit.
Rather says CBS breached his contract by not giving him enough on-air assignments after he was removed as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" in March 2005.
Rather claimed that CBS wanted to pacify the White House, an allegation that seems laughable given the mainstream media's all-out hostility toward the Bush administration. Rather still has the option of appealing this decision.

Meanwhile, a Clinton fundraiser gets a 24-year prison sentence.