by | Mar 16, 2011
That title is not out of a fiction novel. It could happen right here in our time.
A few weeks ago, both the Obama Administration and the US House made major moves to begin limiting the outlandish awards being handed out by some juries in medical malpractice cases. This area has long been a trial lawyersâ€™ playground and each of us is paying the price.
We may be making the right kind of progress now. The President included $250 million in his budget so that the Department of Justice could work with states to rewrite their medical malpractice laws and see real, effective change on this issue. The proposal provides some specific areas of relief by using judges with expertise in this area to decide cases instead of allowing juries to dole out unreasonable awards. Additional proposals might include creating reliable standards for doctors to operate under that would allow them to prove they were not negligent and a shift from full liability of every entity involved, to proportional liability amongst all parties (hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, etc.).
House Republican efforts are a little more straightforward. They would impose a cap on non-economic damages awarded from juries. This would take out much of the incentive for the frivolous and costly lawsuits in the medical industry. Here is a more detailed summary of House File 5, cleared through committee about a month ago (you can read the bill here):
- Help Efficient, Accessible, Low Cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011 – Sets conditions for lawsuits arising from health care liability claims regarding health care goods or services or any medical product affecting interstate commerce.
- Sets a statute of limitations of three years after the date of manifestation of injury or one year after the claimant discovers the injury, with certain exceptions.
- Limits noneconomic damages to $250,000. Makes each party liable only for the amount of damages directly proportional to such party’s percentage of responsibility.
- Allows the court to restrict the payment of attorney contingency fees. Limits the fees to a decreasing percentage based on the increasing value of the amount awarded.
- Allows the introduction of collateral source benefits and the amount paid to secure such benefits as evidence. Prohibits a provider of such benefits from recovering any amount from an award in a health care lawsuit involving injury or wrongful death.
- Authorizes the award of punitive damages only where: (1) it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that a person acted with malicious intent to injure the claimant or deliberately failed to avoid unnecessary injury the claimant was substantially certain to suffer; and (2) compensatory damages are awarded. Limits punitive damages to the greater of two times the amount of economic damages or $250,000.
- Denies punitive damages in the case of products approved, cleared, or licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or otherwise considered in compliance with FDA standards.
- Provides for periodic payments of future damages.
The movement on both sides should be seen as a win for health care consumers. Runaway litigation has led to massive increases in unnecessary medical procedures and huge run ups in doctorsâ€™ insurance premiums, and will continue to spin out of control. All of those expenses are passed on to the premium payer and the taxpayer, in other words, you and me. Now is the time to enact real medical liability reform.
by | Sep 28, 2010
Running with scissors, bungy-jumping, lion-training don’t hold a candle to these two items…
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Republicans appear to be doing well, very well, scary well. So what’s to be done about it? Republicans need to work harder, get more engaged, get more yard signs up, knock on more doors!
Why, you may ask, would I think that?
Because early poll successes:
- Are deceiving. In Politics, scientific polling lacks integrity because there are so many factors and inconsistencies, including the fact that they reflect a point in time, which is not election day
- Are open to interpretation. The complexities and meaning behind poll answers can be interpreted multiple ways… sometimes the answers mean something different than what we think.
- Can lead to complacency. Accepting that your candidate is going to win hands down can lead to voter apathy and before you know it, everyone that said they were going to vote decides to stay home election day or just forgets to vote.
It’s great to feel good about these polls… I’m very enthused about our prospects here in Iowa. But polling can cause us to take our eye off the ball… we need to stay focused on the message, on getting it delivered to the people that need to hear it most, and make sure we get everyone out to vote come election day.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Did you think that maybe ObamaCare wouldn’t impact you directly for a while? Think again.
New rules from the IRS issued earlier this month, based on the Affordable Care Act now require that those who pay for over-the-counter (OTC) medications (such as Claritan, Robitussin, etc.) FSAs or HRAs, beginning January 1, 2011, to get a prescription for these medications to get the reimbursements. Flexible Spending Account (FSAs) Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) setup for medical expenses not normally covered by insurance, using untaxed dollars. On top of this, patients will have to submit the prescription information along with the receipt to their account program adminstration instead of using the more convenient (and appropriate) debit cards most of these accounts now provide.
It may seem like a small thing, but doctors don’t typically hand out prescriptions of any kind without a visit, which will cost the patient and/or their insurance provider. Add to that the new paperwork burden, and you’ve impacted many Americans enough that they will (rightfully so) choose to abandon the use of the untaxed (or pretaxed) dollars and instead reduce their FSA/HRA use (or eliminate it) and just pay for these medications with taxed dollars.
Yes this is for real, and yes I think it’s stupid. This is the result of just a small piece of the gargantuan legislation passed by a Congress bent on making us miserable. I’m convinced of that now. Give them 2 more years and they will find a way to ensure that the Government will simply pay for these medications (with an appropriate prescription) instead of just going back to a system that worked fine, therefore making us even more dependent on the government.
And the best part is, you can still use these accounts like you always did for any other medical supplies that don’t require a prescription. You will have to get a prescription to get a, frankly small, tax advantage.
Government savings, none… I can pretty much guarantee that the new taxes recovered will barely pay for the paper used to print this stupid bill. More likely we will see substantive costs go up, either in government or for insurance companies, to support this idiotic requirement.
Sometimes it just seems dangerous to get up in the morning.