Thursday, January 06, 2005

Bush stumps against victims rights

According to the American Progress Action Fund , President Bush yesterday pushed his plan to restrict justice for injured plaintiffs. The president claimed on behalf of the insurance industry "the prospect of big jury awards in medical malpractice cases was causing insurance rates to soar and doctors to abandon their practices." If you scrape away the overheated rhetoric and look at the reality, however, a very different picture emerges. His proposal would have no real effect on the cost of health care. The caps would " disproportionately affect " children and seniors who live on fixed incomes. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it also would " undermine incentives for safety" while at the same time making it "harder for some patients with legitimate but difficult claims to find legal representation."

Today's high premiums are a result of insurance industry pricing practices which gouge doctors. Consider: While malpractice payouts actually went down by 8.2 percent between 2001 and 2002, there was no corresponding decrease in doctors' premiums ; the insurance industry simply pocketed the difference. The Des Moines Register points out, "There's simply no correlation between lawsuits and insurance rates. Rather, insurance rates are tied to the climate of the stock and bond market, where insurance companies invest much of their money."

A study by Weiss Ratings, Inc., showed that in 19 states with malpractice caps, physicians suffered a 48.2 percent jump in their premiums. Meanwhile, in 32 states without caps, premiums rose by only 35.9 percent. In other words, there is no connection between caps and premium rates. That finding was echoed by the Congressional Budget Office, which found there is " no statistically significant difference in per capita health care spending between states with and without limits on malpractice torts."

The ironic point is that in oreder to be "capped", you must first prove that your damages are over the cap!!!! The cap just redistributes the burden so that the victim bears the "cost" of the doctors malpractice. I wonder if Bush would propose a cap in the following case: his stockbroker gave him negligent advise that he relied on and lost $500,000. Should his damages be capped at $250 too?

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