Friday, February 18, 2011

Tort Reform is Attack on 7th Amendment and State's Rights

Why is Congress tearing apart the 7th Amendment and striking down State's Rights with H.B. 5? House Bill 5 is the so-called tort reform bill that barely made it out of the Judiciary Committee to limit meritorious lawsuits against health providers.

Maybe it's because the sponsor of the bill has been sued multiple times himself for medical malpractice...the NY Times and Mother Jones has the full story:

Case in point is one of the very congressmen sponsoring the bill, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.). In 2007, the New York Times reports, Gingrey, who is a doctor, settled a lawsuit for $500,000 in a case involving a pregnant woman whose appendicitis Gingrey and others failed to diagnose. Her appendix burst, causing a massive infection that left her unborn child dead and the woman partially disabled after she suffered a stroke as a result.

That wasn't the only time Gingrey has been sued. The Times writes:

In a pretrial deposition, Dr. Gingrey testified that he had been sued at least three other times over malpractice during his long career. In one case, a jury found against him; in another case, there was a settlement; and in another case, the patient dropped the action, he testified.

It's no suprise that the doctors who get sued a lot are the ones who complain the loudest about "frivolous" lawsuits. But the case against Gingrey seems anything but frivolous. But it's just those sorts of serious cases that Gingrey's bill would restrict. And far from saving money, the bill would simply shift the cost of negligent medicine from the doctors and their insurance companies to the taxpayers through Medicaid and other disability programs. Private health insurers also can often recoup their costs for covering malpractice injuries through those lawsuits. Catastrophic injuries like the one suffered by Gingrey's patient profiled in the Times tend to bankrupt people, leaving them reliant on government health care, and the costs can be significant.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Insurance Company Won't Pay Out--Even in Hockey!

Just another example that confirms all our suspicions about insurance companies...

During intermission at a recent game, the USHL's Indiana Ice held a contest where a fan tries to score a length-of-the-ice goal for $50,000. One man, who said if he won would give the money to charity, succeeded, but was told him his goal didn't count because he was over some line and the insurance company who sponsored this challenge didn't pay out the prize. The Indiana Ice, however, did make a donation to charity.

The full story is below...even more telling is that Allstate apparently turned around and blamed a third-party insurance company for being the bad guy. I mean, the name of the contest was Allstate Good Hands Shootout--yet Allstate claims it was someone else that should have paid--sound familiar? That happens all the time in lawsuits--it's called "subrogation" (really, passing-the-buck).

Here's the full blow by blow:

On Saturday night at the Pepsi Coliseum in Indianapolis, Richard Marsh stood at one end of the rink and stared down at the opposite goal, which was covered by a board with a small opening for a puck to slide through.

The USHL's Indiana Ice were holding a special "Hockey for Heart" night sponsored by St. Vincent Heart Center of Indiana. If Marsh scored on this extraordinarily difficult rink-length shot in the team's Allstate Good Hands Shootout, $50,000 would be donated by Allstate to St. Vincent's Cardiovascular of Indiana and the American Heart Association.

After the Ice's mascot took an inspirational heave of the puck down the ice, Marsh took his shot ... and sent the puck through the board into the net. Check it out (no sound on the video, FYI):

Here's another look at the goal.

Here's the remarkable part: Marsh could have kept the money if he won, but decided before he even took the shot that if he made it, he was going to donate it all to charity. There was just one prize of $50,000; all of it was going to St. Vincent's Cardiovascular of Indiana and the American Heart Association.

Awesome, right?

One problem: Marsh didn't completely follow the rules.

According to the USHL, Marsh was "standing in front of the designated starting line" when he released the shot, and thus "the insurance company voided the award due to Marsh" standing in the wrong place. Which makes it a real killjoy. Isn't there some sort of exception for ridiculous goals scored by guys who look like substitute physics teachers?

(Clarification: There's been some vitriol in the comments regarding AllState, so we contacted the USHL about its role in the matter. Sure enough, Brian Werger of the USHL said the initial release from the League didn't clearly state the fact that a third-party insurance company hired to cover this event at Ice games, and not Allstate, was the one that made the call not to pay out the $50,000.)

With that, it was Paul and Cindy Skjodt to the rescue. The Indiana Ice owners, who are credited with keeping the franchise alive in Indianapolis, "made a donation in recognition of the accomplishment" to the charities, according to the USHL. The amount of the donation was not disclosed.

All in all, a heartwarming tale. Mascot hugs for everyone.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Malpractice Reform Rests on Thin Evidence

From Texas Watch:

Washington lawmakers who advocate for medical malpractice reform assume they know what goes on in doctors’ offices. They say physicians order unnecessary tests because they fear being sued. So-called “defensive medicine” drives up health spending, the argument goes.

They don’t acknowledge many doctors order tests because they’re trying to do a thorough job with patients. They rarely mention too much testing is a result of this country’s “fee for service” system of paying doctors. The more care they provide, the more they bill.

Yet proponents of tort reform continue to call for changes in the law – usually caps on the amount of money in non-economic damages patients can collect in a malpractice lawsuits. Even if that did drive down the price of insurance for doctors, that doesn’t mean the savings would be passed on to consumers. It wouldn’t automatically lead to reduced health costs.

Read More: Des Moines Register