Tort Reform Results: Higher Insurance Profits, Lower Patient Safety Initiatives & Higher Med Mal Premiums for Doctors

A recent Forbes article written by Steve Cohen entitled, "On Tort Reform, It's Time to Declare Victory and Withdraw", debunks the myths set forth many years ago when the catchy phrased initiative first started. Given the many states that have passed those "reforms", aka insurance company dream goals to make more money, quantitative information is available to actually measure results. Since many of you went along hook line and sinker, let's see what you have done to yourselves. Drum roll please....

  • FALSE: ER doctors had a fear of malpractice lawsuits and thus ordered unnecessary care causing wasteful healthcare spending and costing us all. With tort reform in place, ER doctors have not stopped ordering unnecessary care and raising healthcare costs.  

This Forbes article sites an investigating in The New England Journal of Medicine entitled, "The Effect of Malpractice Reform on Emergency Department Care" which determined:

BACKGROUND

Many believe that fear of malpractice lawsuits drives physicians to order otherwise unnecessary care and that legal reforms could reduce such wasteful spending. Emergency physicians practice in an information-poor, resource-rich environment that may lend itself to costly defensive practice. Three states, Texas (in 2003), Georgia (in 2005), and South Carolina (in 2005), enacted legislation that changed the malpractice standard for emergency care to gross negligence. We investigated whether these substantial reforms changed practice

RESULTS

For eight of the nine state–outcome combinations tested, no policy-attributable reduction in the intensity of care was detected. We found no reduction in the rates of CT or MRI utilization or hospital admission in any of the three reform states and no reduction in charges in Texas or South Carolina.

Mr. Cohen goes on to write that:

This latest study follows numerous others that deflated other tort reform myths: that making it harder for victims to file medical malpractice lawsuits would reduce the number of “frivolous” suits that “clog the courts;” that imposing caps on the damages victims could receive would reign in “out of control” juries that were awarding lottery-size sums to plaintiffs; and that malpractice insurance premiums would fall, thereby reversing a doctor shortage caused by specialists “fleeing the profession.”
 
None of these promised benefits became reality. That’s because the alleged problems were themselves non-existent. 
 
  • FALSE: Medical malpractice premiums will be lower for doctors with reform in place as insurance companies will pass along the savings. HAH! As a lawyer working against insurance companies,we all knew this was a scam but it was still shocking how many people believed it. 

 

While insurance premiums haven’t gone down, their price increases in tort reform states have gone up a little slower than in non-reform states – the lag is between 6% and 13%.  That hasn’t constrained the insurance industry from showing record profits.   Average returns for malpractice carriers hover around 15.6%, far better than the 12.5% for the property/casualty segment. And the malpractice insurers’ loss ratio – the percentage of claims to premiums — is a remarkably low 61.1%.

In 1999 the Institute of Medicine at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences published its seminal study,"To Err is Human",  which concluded that between 44,000 and 98,000 patients are killed (and many more injured) in hospitals each year due to medical errors. That number – which is more than automobile and workplace accidents combined – doesn’t include deaths in doctors’ offices or clinics – such as the one where Joan Rivers recently died.  By 2011, a study in "HealthAffairs"  estimated the number of avoidable deaths was probably closer to one million.

It's unfortunate that so many Americans were duped by the evil insurance companies but there is still hope for change. Remind your legislative representatives that these myths have been debunked and tort reform is never a good idea.

The judicial system is in place for a reason and that is to allow a jury of your peers to hear the facts and evidence presented by our rules and make the most informed decision. 

Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC does not handle medical malpractice cases but we know several good law firms in the area that do, if you need assistance. However, we can not stand to see Americans constantly steam rolled by insurance propaganda. Start educating yourselves on the facts, not on the fluff and feel good. 

 

 

Big Companies Make Big Mistakes and then Act Like Babies

Fortune Magazine had an Opinion article by journalist, Becky Quick, entitled:

"Toyota. Boston Scientific. Big Banks. Why So Many Companies Can't Say 'We're Sorry,' And Why That's Bad for Business."

Ms. Quick retells the account of an 84-year-old patient that had a Boston Scientific defibrillator and received an accidental shock to his heart.  Instead of apologizing the company sent letters to the medical journal that printed the account questioning the doctor that observed the incident. 

We all know the plight of our tax money going to the Big Banks that were "Too Big to Fail".

Toyota's rise to global infamy may have come as a surprise to many consumers but not to Toyota as the Wall Street Journal reported knowledge of the problem with the gas pedals for nearly a year before the company was actually forced to admit to it.  (Secretive Culture Led Toyota Astray by WSJ).

Interestingly, Ms. Quick poses this question and then answers it herself:

So why do corporate execs seem to have such a hard time making apologies? Maybe because admitting a mistake can be expensive when you head a major corporation. Plaintiffs' lawyers would have a field day with an apology, and recalling a product is expensive. Levick, a crisis-communications firm that has helped companies recall more than 100 products, estimates that it costs twice as much to recall a product as it does to litigate claims related to faulty goods.

I have gone over Costs Benefits Analysis in other blog posts. As a consumer you need to become a little more conscientious about what you are buying and from whom. Otherwise, your ignorance will work hand and hand with the profit analysis of big corporations. Those corporations count on your fear in making that call to get help from Plaintiffs' lawyers when the company's products do harm to you or your loved ones. 

None of you will care until it happens to you, your son, your daughter, husband, wife, or loved one. I remember my early days with the American Red Cross. I worked with the blood services side because I had been a cancer survivor that received blood and platelets. Who better to recruit donors?  My spill to potential donors was always this:

If you or your loved one had a horrible wreck, got stricken with cancer, or needed blood or platelets immediately, wouldn't you go to the hospital and expect it to be there? Why? You aren't willing to give it yourself. Why should you or your loved one get it?

People usually got the point but the Red Cross thought my approach was a little too intense.  I went to law school where my intensity could be better focused on companies that do wrong. Never a shortage in work there.

War! What is it Good For? - INSURANCE PROFITS

We know insurance companies are hard enough to deal with on domestic claims. Can you imagine having to deal with insurance companies as a foreign, or international, person not able to speak the language and working in a war zone?  It appears that not too many foreign workers really have to worry about that because they never are informed of their rights or benefits to begin with. Benefits that are paid for by U.S. taxpayers to insurance companies.

The Los-Angeles Times and Pro-Publica did a joint investigation entitled "Forgotten Warriors" & "Disposable Army", respectively, highlighting the blatant and rampant abuse into the federally financed program that is supposed to provide workers' compensation insurance to civilian contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan. A program that has failed to deliver medical care and other benefits to many foreign workers and their survivors.

The series of articles illustrate in more depth the following highlights:

"It's almost like we're this invisible, discardable military. Once we've done our jobs, they can actually sidetrack us and not worry about us anymore," said Tim Newman, a sheriff's deputy from South Carolina who lost his leg to a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Once back home, he fought an insurance company for a year to get a prosthetic leg that his doctors recommended.

Is it A.I.G? A.I.U? Or I.O.U?

Keith Bradsher  with The New York Times wrote an article entitled, "Name Hurts Main Unit of A.I.G." reporting that:

Less than two months after changing its name, the biggest and best-known unit of American International Group is preparing to change its name again, in the latest sign of damage to one of the world’s most famous brands....

A.I.G. changed the name of the worldwide holding company for its property and casualty unit to American International Underwriters in early March.....

“The advice we’ve received is A.I.U. may be a bit close to A.I.G. — we don’t want to appear as the same leopard with different spots,” Mr.[Leslie] Mouat said in an interview, adding that he was told only Saturday of the decision to change the name again, which has not been publicly announced....

In a similar story Jake Bernstein of ProPublica  indicated that Lehman Brothers changed their name due to the bankruptcy and have now been able to receive additional TARP Funds in his article entitled "Lehman Mortgave Servicer on Life Support Gets a Piece of TARP":

If any more proof is needed that the intersection between the government and the financial sector has become hopelessly convoluted, look no further than Aurora Bank. Until this thrift recently shed its name, à la AIG (which is still picking a new moniker), it was known as Lehman Brothers Bank , a division of the now-bankrupt holding company of the same name. Since Lehman is synonymous with bankruptcy, the still-active but wobbly thrift renamed itself Aurora Bank last month.  It got the name from its own less controversial subsidiary, Aurora Loan Services .
 

There is no need to worry in these troubled economic times about your hard earned tax money, it is still going to help those that need it the least.  Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, I think you would agree with that statement.

If you are a Republican you think the people receiving government benefits, ie food stamps, Medicare, & Medicaid, need your money the least. If you are a Democrat, you think the greedy corporations receiving all the TARP money, vis-a-vis tax money, need it the least and deserve it the least.

Who's right and who's wrong? Without pointing fingers, who cares-who's right and who's wrong? Let's figure out how to make the system better, have the mass public be more informed, and find our balance.  These are the hopes of this young, American lawyer.  (young is a relative term).

 

 

Good Friday

Good Friday entry in Wikipedia:

According to the New Testament, Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane by the Temple Guards through the guidance of his disciple, Judas Iscariot. Judas received money for betraying Jesus and told the guards that whomever he kisses is the one they are to arrest. Jesus is brought to the house of Annas, who is the father-in-law of the current high priest, Caiaphas. There he is interrogated with little result, and sent bound to Caiaphas the high priest, where the Sanhedrin had assembled (John 18:1-24).

Conflicting testimony against Jesus is brought forth by many witnesses, to which Jesus answers nothing. Finally the high priest adjures Jesus to respond under solemn oath, saying "I adjure you, by the Living God, to tell us, are you the Anointed One, the Son of God?" Jesus testifies in the affirmative, "You have said it, and in time you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Almighty, coming on the clouds of Heaven." The high priest condemns Jesus for blasphemy, and the Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus concurs with a sentence of death (Matthew 26:57-66). Peter also denies Jesus three times during the interrogations. Jesus already knew that Peter would deny him three times. See the article Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus regarding the two trials, one at night, the other in the morning and how their timing may affect the day of Good Friday. 

In the morning, the whole assembly brings Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, under charges of subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and making himself a king (Luke 23:1-2). Pilate authorizes the Jewish leaders to judge Jesus according to their own Law and execute sentencing, however the Jewish leaders reply that they are not allowed by the Romans to carry out a sentence of death (John 18:31).

Pilate questions Jesus, and tells the assembly that there is no basis for sentencing. Upon learning that Jesus is from Galilee, Pilate refers the case to the ruler of Galilee, King Herod, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Herod questions Jesus but receives no answer; Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate tells the assembly that neither he nor Herod have found guilt in Jesus; Pilate resolves to have Jesus whipped and released (Luke 23:3-16).

It was a custom during the feast of Passover for the Romans to release one prisoner as requested by the Jews. Pilate asks the crowd who they would like to be released. Under the guidance of the chief priests, the crowd asks for Barabbas, who had been imprisoned for committing murder during an insurrection. Pilate asks what they would have him do with Jesus, and they demand, "Crucify him" (Mark 15:6-14). Pilate's wife had seen Jesus in a dream earlier that day; she forewarns Pilate to "have nothing to do with this righteous man" (Matthew 27:19).

Pilate has Jesus flogged, then brings him out to the crowd to release him. The chief priests inform Pilate of a new charge, demanding Jesus be sentenced to death "because he claimed to be God's son." This possibility filled Pilate with fear, and he brought Jesus back inside the palace and demanded to know from where he came (John 19:1-9).

Coming before the crowd one last time, Pilate declares Jesus innocent, washing his own hands in water to show he has no part in this condemnation. Nevertheless, Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified in order to forestall a riot (Matthew 27:24-26). The sentence written is "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Jesus carries his cross to the site of execution (assisted by Simon of Cyrene), called the place of the Skull, or "Golgotha" in Hebrew and in Latin "Calvary". There he is crucified along with two criminals (John 19:17-22).

Jesus agonizes on the cross for six hours. During his last 3 hours on the cross,from noon to 3pm, there is darkness over the whole land.[7] With a loud cry, Jesus gives up his spirit. There is an earthquake, tombs break open, and the curtain in the Temple is torn from top to bottom. The centurion on guard at the site of crucifixion declares, "Truly this was God's Son!" (Matthew 27:45-54)

Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and secret follower of Jesus, who had not consented to his condemnation, goes to Pilate to request the body of Jesus (Luke 23:50-52). Pilate asks confirmation from the centurion whether Jesus is dead (Mark 15:44). A soldier pierced the side of Jesus with a lance causing blood and water to flow out (John 19:34), and the centurion informs Pilate that Jesus is dead (Mark 15:45).

Joseph of Arimathea takes the body of Jesus, wraps it in a clean linen shroud, and places it in his own new tomb that had been carved in the rock (Matthew 27:59-60) in a garden near the site of crucifixion. Another secret follower of Jesus and member of the Sanhedrin named Nicodemus (John 3:1) also came bringing 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes, and places them in the linen with the body of Jesus, according to Jewish burial customs (John 19:39-40). They rolled a large rock over the entrance of the tomb (Matthew 27:60). Then they returned home and rested, because at sunset began Shabbat (Luke 23:54-56). On the third day, Sunday, which is now known as Easter Sunday (or Pascha), Jesus rose from the dead.

 

Celebrate National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week with Me!

The week of April 5-11, 2009 has been recognized nationwide as Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week. This is important on so many levels but more importantly for myself and my family, because we recognize it every day.

I was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 17 and given a very poor prognosis (I'm going on 31 now and "Living the Dream".)  I have watched my mother die a slow and painful death with lung cancer, in my mid 20's. My family has currently been hit again with my Uncle's diagnosis of cancer. This illness has no eyes to see color, sex, or economic background. It simple invades our lives and affects each and everyone of us in some direct or indirect manner. Live the dream every day because no one is promised tomorrow, regardless of their situation.

Earth Times reported:

Nearly 70,000 young adults in their 20s and 30s are diagnosed with cancer each year and it is the leading disease killer among 20 to 39 year olds. Young adults with cancer have had less survival improvement than other age groups and strides made in cancer treatment have bypassed young adults, who also have the lowest participation rate in clinical trials of any age group.

Vital Options International has provided a plethora of resources and information through their website to better educate and bring together the cancer community. They have a wonderful collection of videos and trendier marketing materials for young adult cancer survivors.

Planet Cancer is another wonderful resource for young cancer survivors. These websites take the edge off being diagnosed or dealing with cancer.  Take it from someone that knows, truly knows.

If you want to support your local cancer groups please donate your time, money, or resources to any of the following:

 

Happy Bill of Rights Day!

The current guy in the White House has set forth a proclamation in his waning hours as Chief Executive:

The United States was founded on the principle that government must respect people's rights to speak freely, worship as they choose, and pursue their dreams in liberty. As we remember the enduring importance of our Constitution's Bill of Rights, our thoughts turn to those who have yet to secure these precious liberties. During Human Rights Day, Bill of Rights Day, and Human Rights Week, Americans celebrate the rights bestowed upon all by our Creator and reaffirm our deep commitment to helping those whose desire for liberty and justice is still dismissed and denied.

In a free society, every person is treated with dignity and can rise as high as their talents and hard work will take them. Yet in countries like Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and Zimbabwe, fervent pleas for freedom are silenced by tyranny and oppression. So long as there are people who fight for liberty, the United States will stand with them and speak out for those who have no other voice.

Freedom is the eternal birthright of all mankind, and during Human Rights Day, Bill of Rights Day, and Human Rights Week, we renew our commitment to lead the cause of human rights and pray for the day when the light of liberty will shine on all of humanity.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 10, 2008, as Human Rights Day; December 15, 2008, as Bill of Rights Day; and the week beginning December 10, 2008, as Human Rights Week. I call upon the people of the United States to mark these observances with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

GEORGE W. BUSH

The Blawg Review site had a very interesting YouTube clip that provided a more visual reminder of our liberties.

China Tries to Kill Pebbles

Pebbles is the Yorkshire terrier that became a symbol of the national pet food scare.  A multi-million dollar settlement for owners of dogs and cats, who were sickened or died after eating pet food contaminated with an industrial chemical, was reached on Tuesday, October 14, 2008. 

Most of the food turned out to contain Chinese-made wheat gluten laced with melamine, an industrial chemical. Since then, the nitrogen-rich chemical used to make plastics and fertilizers have been found in a variety of food products in China. Authorities there have issued guidelines limiting acceptable levels of the chemical in food.

China has been pushing the boundaries of safety limits required upon imports, lately.  This recent settlement is only the start of so many products that have caused substantial injury to everything to our family pet to our new born infant.  There are so many more issues of product negligence originating from China. 

Roger Parloff, a senior editor for Fortune Magazine, wrote an article last year entitled, "China's newest export: lawsuits", that specifically points out this issue. Mr. Parloff references "incidents involving potentially deadly, defective, or contaminated products imported from China..... (including).....pet food, toys, tires, toothpaste, cough syrup, shrimp..."

In the small western corner of South Carolina, the Trammell Law Firm, P.A. has one of the few known AMO Complete MoisturePlus Multi-Purpose lens Solution cases in the state.  Don't assume your interest and well being are protected just because a product is available on shelves, in parking lots, or in restaurants.