The Democrats’ Bad Medicine

Will Collier makes the excellent point that John Edwards’ position as VP candidate gives the GOP a great opportunity to show why trial lawyers are hurting healthcare. Doctors in states like Maryland are facing dramatic and debilitating increases in malpractice insurance rates which is causing a mass exodus of doctors in states where lawsuits have dramatically driven up rates. The President needs to highlight stories like this:

Putting a face on Illinois’ health-care crisis during today’s hearing were Naperville resident Heidi Ruppenthal and Lisa Kasten of Belleville, who provided personal and compelling testimony about their families’ recent medical emergencies.

In April, Heidi Ruppenthal’s son, Alex, suffered a large epidural hematoma while playing whiffle ball at school. Edward Hospital doctors considered transporting Alex to Children’s Memorial Hospital because no neurosurgeon was available to operate. Concerned that he would not survive transport, they luckily found the only neurosurgeon in the area, Dr. John Brayton, who carried the malpractice insurance necessary to perform the surgery Alex needed. Alex’s life was saved.

Lisa Kasten’s father was not as lucky. This February, Fred Andricks slipped on the ice outside his home. He was rushed to the hospital eight miles away, where Kasten learned that her father had suffered major head trauma, but there were no neurosurgeons in the area to operate on him. Fred Andricks’ only hope was to be transported to a St. Louis hospital. Bad weather forced the transport by ambulance. He died en route.

Stories like this are all too common as doctors have to flee states with skyrocketing malpractice insurance rates. These aren’t negligent or poorly-trained doctors, these are dedicated and qualified physicians who could save lives but are forced by greedy trial lawyers looking to make a quick buck into moving out of high-need areas like Chicago or Baltimore into states where premiums aren’t prohibitively high.

Unlike Kerry and Edwards who want to make the problem worse by opposing necessary tort reforms, the President needs to propose significant reform to malpractice insurance on the national level as well as using the Presidential bully pulpit to force states to enact more sensible laws. This is an example of an issue where Bush can stress his compassionate conservatism – who are the people going to trust, doctors or lawyers? All Bush needs to do to counter the inevitable claims that malpractice suits are protecting patients is bring up cases like that of Fred Andricks – if Kerry and Edwards get their way, how many more doctors will leave? Can we really afford a trial lawyer and a trial lawyer’s best friend in the White House?

The Bush campaign needs to go on the offensive once again, and this is the perfect way to do it. Kerry and Edwards talk about their appeal to the common man, although both represent the ultra-privileged and the same forces that often conspire to punish those who dare reach for the same successes they’ve enjoyed. The hypocrisy of their message is easy to expose, but only if the Bush Administration is willing to do so.

10 thoughts on “The Democrats’ Bad Medicine

  1. Hey, Mark, it’s the Dems who are the party of Enron…it was under Clinton that Enron started and got away with all of their fraud…it was Rubin who called the White House and tried to intervene on Enron’s behalf…

    As for Halliburton, it is a fine company with a fine record…as for their supposed profiteering on Iraq, consider that they are actually LOSING money on the deal…check out the public financial records…it’s all there…

  2. There are certainly plenty of sympathy stories that can be used by both sides…

    But the broader reality is this: Edwards represents a group that is responsible for many frivolous lawsuits that drive up the cost of both healthcare and business in general.

  3. Business groups are already coming out against this ticket…I believe that Edwards will end up being seen as a poor choice in retrospect…

    Plus, Edwards’ lack of experience makes Dan Qayle (when he ran for veep) look like a wise old statesman…

  4. Another Thought, Enron donated 76% of their campaign contributions to Republicans over the years….and the Enron execs were caught on tape in 2000 expressing what dream scenario it would be for them if Dubya got elected. Case closed.

    Let’s see some evidence of Halliburton “losing money” in Iraq. In the Michael Moore movie you seemed to know so much about, Halliburton stockholders met and were discussing how much money they’ve already made from the war in Iraq and how the inflow of money was “just gonna get better and better and better” in the months to come. I’m eager to see the statistics showing that Halliburton has become a non-profit organization performing charity work in Iraq and operating at a financial loss. I’ll be patiently waiting for you to produce them.

  5. Mark:

    It was the Clinton administration that did so much to help Enron:
    “Enron did surprisingly well during the Clinton years,” NBC’s Lisa Myers declared Monday night. She explained: “Lay played golf with the President, and Enron received $1.2 billion in government-backed loans for projects around the world.”

    It was under Clinton that Enron conducted its fraud.

    And it was Clinton’s man Rubin who called the Bush White House asking it to bail Enron out. The Bush administration said NO.

    Case closed.

  6. As to Halliburton, here’s what a former Clinton admin official has to say:
    One would be hard-pressed to discover anyone with a working knowledge of how federal contracts are awarded — whether a career civil servant working on procurement or an independent academic expert — who doesn’t regard these allegations as being somewhere between highly improbable and utterly absurd.

    Having served as a senior procurement policymaker in the Clinton administration, I found these charges (for which no direct evidence has been provided) implausible….

  7. At any rate, back to Edwards…this guy is a joke. He has no experience whatsoever…not even one complete Senate term.

    He is the 4th most liberal member of the US Senate, teaming up with the guy who is the most liberal member of the Senate…

    The Dems have constructed a true anti-business far left wing ticket…

  8. Hmmm…this seems interesting:
    Washington periodical The Hill digs deeper into the curiously uniform $2,000 contributions Sen. John Edwards’ presidential campaign got from so many receptionists, paralegals and other low-level staffers at plaintiff’s law firms. The $2,000 donors include many employees who had not given to candidates or even voted in the past, and others who are listed on the voting rolls as Republicans. Many spouses and relatives of the staffers likewise contributed the maximum. Some of the munificent staffers have recently gone through the kind of personal financial reverses — bankruptcy filings, for example — which would not seem to correlate in the natural order of things with having a large available checkbook for political donations. “In many instances, all the checks from a given firm arrived on the same day — from partners, attorneys, and other support staff.”

  9. I don’t get it. So, the answer to the declining quality of health care in the US is simply to absolve HMO’s and insurers of any responsibility whatsoever for the results of their own incomptetence?

    Bush is going to have a hard time painting this as “Doctors vs. lawyers” when it’s actually a question of HMO’s making care decisions based on the profit margin, not on the patient’s health.

  10. Bush doesn’t want to “absolve” HMO’s and insurers from responsibility, just set reasonable limits.

    Really? Because so far all he’s done is make sure they can’t be sued at all. That’s not what I’d call a “reasonable limit.”

    And what does “reasonable limit” mean, anyway? A cap on settlement amounts? If my HMO fucks up and denies me care that later causes a medical condition that costs $1.2 million to treat, is it “unreasonable” to expect them to cough it up? What’s reasonable about saying that they only have to pay, oh, say $100,000?

    The problem is that too many people with the help of trial lawyers are out to abuse the system and in so doing drive up the cost of healthcare and drive out medical providers.

    Oh, sure, some folks are going to game the system. But it’s the insurers and HMO’s that put themselves in this position by taking control of medical care away from medically-trained professionals.

    The problem here isn’t people seeking recompense for injury done to their person. The problem is the insurers doing the injuries. Nobody’s twisiting their arms to make them raise malpractice rates. It’s a decision based on an overriding need to profit, not help people get medical care. The fact that we would never expect anything else from an insurer is not a reason to absolve them.

    Why do you think the wealthy from all over the world come here for treatment?

    Try not being wealthy and trying to get quality medical care. Then you’ll see what I’m talking about.

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