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Fighting Back on Tort/Medical Malpractice Reform: Support Public Citizen; Defeat HR 5

4 comments

"Public Citizen". Are you familiar with this organization? It is

a national consumer advocacy organization which represents consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts. Public Citizen fights for openness and democratic accountability in government, for the right of consumers to seek redress in the courts; for clean, safe and sustainable energy sources; for social and economic justice in trade policies; for strong health, safety and environmental protections; and for safe, effective and affordable prescription drugs and health care.

This is a non-profit organization; it can’t be labeled "greedy". It is not an organization of "trial lawyers". It does not "profit" off the recoveries of injured people. Its motives cannot be impugned by the likes of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the phony "Citizens ("Citizens" in the Mitt Romney sense of the word; you know, in the "Corporations are people" way of thinking) Against Lawsuit Abuse" groups. Its stated mission is citizen rights, citizen justice. Simple, no?

In the Summer/Fall edition of Civil Justice’s wonderful newsletter, David Arkush, the Director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division, correctly asserts that patients’ right are under attack. He calls a pending federal bill, known, simply, as H.R. 5. a "grab bag" of the worst set of "deforms" proffered yet. It includes damages caps, attorney fee limits, short statutes of limitations, and preemptions of state law. And, it applies not only to negligent doctors and hospitals, but nursing homes, drug makers, and medical device manufacturers.

Because hospitals, doctors, drug and device manufacturers line the pockets of supportive politicians, many greedy conservative politicians have lined up at the campaign contribution feeding trough and are drinking the "liability reform" Kool Aid (TM) from it. The Speaker of the House, John Boehner, for instance, falsely calls malpractice litigation health care’s "biggest cost driver". Rick Perry, Republican Governor of Texas and current front-running Republican candidate for president, touts Texas tort reform as one of his biggest accomplishments. But Public Citizen has shown that every claim made about the benefits of Texas tort reform has been proved false. Here is the recent data it cites:

Despite the significant 2003 reforms, the cost of health care in Texas has increased at nearly double the national average rate.

Spending increases for diagnostic testing in Texas have far exceeded the national average

Texas’ uninsured rate is increased and is the highest in the country

The cost of health insurance in Texas has more than doubled

Growth in the number of Texas doctors per capita has slowed

The number of Texas doctors per capita in under-served rural areas has declined

This is the "proud record" that Rick Perry is touting and running for President on? But, there is more. Public Citizen has also provided a list of "key facts" about Medical Malpractice:

There has been an "Epidemic of Medical Errors":

1 in 17 Medicare inpatients experiences a serious avoidable error

Medical errors kill and estimated 250,000 people a year in the U.S.

Employing 10 simple safety practices would save 85,000 lives and $35 billion a year

Malpractice Litigation Results in Minuscule System Costs:

Malpractice insurance premiums were only 0.46% of health care costs

The 10,772 payments to malpractice victims in 2009 was the lowest number ever and totaled only $3.5 billion, among the lowest ever

‘Defensive Medicine’ v. ‘Financial Incentives':

A study showed that doctors based decision on liability concerns a mere 8% of the time.

In 2006, 61% of Medicare reimbursements for MRIs and 64% for CT scans were self-referrals

Self-referring physicians are up to 7 times more likely to order radiological tests

(Note: I am presuming that these stats mean that the referring doctor owns or has a financial interest in the MRI, Radiologic or CT Scan clinic.)

Public Citizen is collecting stories from malpractice victims. They intend to connect these victims with key media outlets and with their members of Congress in an effort to share their stories. Arkush says:

The most important thing we can do is remind people exactly what is at stake when it comes to medical malpractice-real lives, real livelihoods and horrible suffering.

HR 5 is a terrible deal for the American citizen and a great deal for negligent doctors, hospitals, and corporate wrongdoers. I have written post after post about the corporate fleecing of our civil justice rights and the trampling of the 7th Amendment by corporate interests and the politicians whose campaigns are profiting from these interests. It is a horrible fate to be a victim of negligence, especially in the operating room by someone in whose hands you placed your life or the life of a loved one. Isn’t it equally horrible to be victimized twice for the same thing? Tort reform restricts your access to justice for that negligence and trivializes the lives and health of the victims. So far, these malpractice ‘reforms’ have varied state-to-state. Some states are more onerous than others; some have resisted (appropriately so) any type of liability-civil justice restrictions. HR 5 would make the most onerous restrictions the law of the land in the entire country. Don’t let these corporate interests and their political lackey-liars get away with it.

Public Citizen is urging malpractice victims and/or attorneys of victims to share their stories. To do so, please visit www.citizen.org/medical-errors-stories or call Amanda Jespersen Fleming, director of Public Citizen’s Civil Justice Department. Her number is (202) 588-7734. And all of you, victims or not, call your Congresspeople and Senators. Tell them that you think HR 5 is bad for America. Tell them you will not vote for anyone who supports it. And please, consider showing your personal or financial support for Public Citizen and the fine work that they are doing for liberty and justice for all. Thank you, on behalf of justice, for your support.

Mark M. Bello is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation where he is instrumental in providing cash flow solutions and consulting when necessity of life lawsuit funding is needed during litigation. Mr. Bello has thirty-four years experience as a trial lawyer and 13 years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the litigation funding industry. Mr. Bello is a sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association, Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Member of the American and Michigan Bar Associations, Member of the Public Justice Foundation, out-of-state member of the Mississippi Association for Justice and a business associate of the Florida Justice Association, Tennessee Association for Justice, Central Ohio Association for Justice and the Consumer Attorneys of California. He is also a proud member of the InjuryBoard.

4 Comments

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    Very good example of how people can make a difference, we need to keep getting the message out.

  2. Ben Rush MD says:
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    Tort reform doesn’t restrict access to a courtroom. Tort reform does restrict a trial lawyer’s access to wealth beyond avarice.

  3. Mark Bello says:
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    Dr. Rush: What do attorney fees have to do with the ruined lives of malpractice victims and tort reform causing inadequate compensation to them? As a physician, I would think that you would support holding negligent doctors accountable, unless, of course, you are routinely negligent, yourself. The legal profession is held to the same professional standard yet never asks for a government bailout. Only doctors, hospitals and corporations do that. The taxpayers are left with the bill and safety suffers due to substandard accountability. THAT’S the problem, not the wealth beyond avarice of attorneys. Query Dr. Rush: If your “theory” is correct, why do doctors make more money than lawyers?

  4. Mike Bryant says:
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    Dr Rush please explain how tort reform doesn’t restrict access to the courtroom? Let’s take the most extreme case that you can think of, that you would want stopped from the courtroom. Isn’t that case restricted under your view of the world?
    Or let’s look at caps. Today the consumer has a claim and tomorrow they don’t have that same right to the claim? Is that not a restriction on that persons access to justice?
    There is not a limit that you can push for that doesn’t restrict the rights a person has today and is given under the United States Constitution.
    So stop with the foolishness and simple spins and tell us what you want to take away from the consumer so that that they can’t recover , after a wrong site surgery, the cutting off of a healthy breast, or the death of their child.