Malpractice madness

Mother Jones
Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Good news this week for the health insurance industry, with the Supreme Court unanimously ruling that patients do not have the right to sue HMOs in state courts for complications resulting from services and medicines wrongfully denied to them.
The HMOs triumphed over two Texas patients who sued under a law passed under then Governor Bush’s watch. Bush took credit for the law, which he did not sign, during his 2000 presidential campaign, promising, "If I'm president, people will be able to take their HMO insurance company to court. That's what I've done in Texas, and that's the kind of leadership style I'll bring to Washington." These words, however, seemed echoes of a distant past, as the White House dutifully sided with the HMOs.

Trial lawyers and some consumer groups say that the hoopla over frivolous lawsuits is overdone. The medical lobby and the insurance industry, they say, are simply steering the passage of favorable legislation by exaggerating the extent of frivolous lawsuits and downplaying the suffering caused by medical malpractice. As the consumer advocacy group Center for Justice & Democracy, puts it:
"It may be hard to understand why 'tort reform' is even on the national agenda at a time when insurance industry profits are booming, tort filings are declining, only 2 percent of injured people sue for compensation, punitive damages are rarely awarded, liability insurance costs for businesses are minuscule, medical malpractice insurance and claims are both less than 1 percent of all health care costs in America, and premium-gouging underwriting practices of the insurance industry have been widely exposed."
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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