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.