Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bad Prescription

As expected, and despite past assurances to the contrary, the Governor signed the Med Mal bill today. See one of the myriad stories here.

In the interest of full disclosure of how I feel about the bill, um, law, my quote in the article was:

"This legislation is a matter of politics trumping policy and poll results winning out over public interest."

Since this was one of the first items that I discussed on this blog, I won't get into it again fully here. I just have to repeat though that I think that the people of this state, primarily in southern Illinois, are being manipulated as political pawns in a high stakes game being launched by corporate concerns. Case in point, look at this paragraph from the Sun-Times article:

'The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform cheered Thursday's bill signing as "a much-needed step in the right direction." That group also plans to launch a statewide advertising campaign pitching the need for additional reforms, insisting lawsuit abuse creates a hostile business climate that puts Illinois' jobs at risk. '

Now who the hell thinks that the U.S. Chamber is losing any sleep over health care availability for Illinoisans? Not me. This isn't the chamber made up of your local Ace Hardware or Ann's Travel Agency, this is the Altria's and Exxon's of the world who don't want people messing with their bottom line regardless of the validity of the claim. This was a Doc Maarten boot in the door that is going to be used to next try to impose limitations on average citizens being able to go after corporate wrongdoing.

Personally, I think that frivolous lawsuits hurt everybody. But these folks want to make it as hard as possible to bring even legitimate claims. Average citizens are already at a tremendous disadvantage when it comes to trying to seek justice from large corporate wrongdoers. The U.S. Chamber wants to further tilt the playing field.

I want to give credit where credit is due. They did a great job of P.R. in creating and selling this issue to the masses. Once they did that, the polling numbers couldn't help but follow. At that point, the leaders were boxed in. It will be interesting indeed to see what happens when either the bill gets struck down or the bill stays intact and premiums still don't plummet or when the public reads about the first egregious case of medical wrongdoing that cripples an innocent patient who is then awarded a verdict that is a fraction of what common sense or decency dictates.

Call it non-economic damages, pain and suffering, or even punitive damages. Certain cases so offend the conscience that they deserve an eye-opening award. May God look out so that nobody that we care about becomes that victim.

Scorecard: Big Business 1; Illinois victims 0.


At August 25, 2005 at 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At August 25, 2005 at 5:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was the first step in total tort reform. Its really sad that people are so easily led-on by talking points and clever marketing campaigns (i.e. "keep drs. in IL" green bands).

What now? I can only keep my hope that people will never look at businesses as the victim. It was easy to gain support for doctors, but everyone loves to hate profit-hungry corporations.

Time to organize an offensive so we're not smacked like med-mal.

At August 25, 2005 at 9:42 PM, Anonymous Ben Crane - trial lawyer said...

Despite today's doom and gloom, this will turn out to be a step in the right direction.

The caps will have no effect for 4 to 7 years. The law will be struck down within two years. In those two years, the portions of the bill that drop the hammer on ISMIE secrecy and bad doctors will take hold and have an effect on high premiums.

After the bill is struck down, the legislature will have the hard facts ISMIE previoulsy refused to hand over but now have to becauase of the new bill. We can then effectuate change that will make a difference.

At August 25, 2005 at 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The green arm bands were Dr. Lynne Nowak's idea, she's a Belleville physician.

I really love to hear physicians respond to the trial lawyers' claims that this has been drummed up the chamber. That really gets them more motivated. Nothing motivates a doctor more than hearing that another legislator thinks their problem doesn't exist. The southern Illinois legislators tried that stance for about two years. Look where they ended up.

How exactly does a cap on non-economic damages, since it still allows for victims to recover full economic damage awards plus a quarter- or half-million (depending on whether a hospital or doctor is being sued), "make it as hard as possible to bring even legitimate claims"?

Eye-popping verdicts make victims rich, and that is above and beyond the spirit of law, which is to make victims whole. The public understands the difference. Lawyers don't seem to, I guess they get taught something different in their second semester of law school.

Hopefully the Supreme Court went to a different law school.

At August 25, 2005 at 11:16 PM, Blogger The Houston Curmudgeon said...

Being that I live in Texas, I don't know the exact verbiage of the IL med-mal bill. From what I read here I think it must be pretty close to a bill that was passed in the last session of our legislature that limited awards in malpractice suits. If so, I would have to stand in favor of the law. Jury awards, as a whole, are generally ridiculous. Consider the recent Vioxx case that just completed in TX that awarded the 'widow' $230 million. How can that be justified even if Vioxx was the cause of death which I sincerely doubt. Within our new law, she will only be awarded $1.45 million if it stands up. Hopefully, Merck will be successful in their appeal.
We have to understand that if juries, courts, et al, keep making these ridiculous awards, corporations and professionals are going to quit trying to make our lives better. Certainly, there are cases of viable malpractice and those people should be duly punished and admonished from their profession. However, if the malfeasance is due to an unknown quantity by the professional or corporation, that needs to be considered. All patients do not react in the same way. All drugs do not have the same efficacy for all patients. Using Vioxx as an example, hundreds of thousands of patients felt better for having taken the drug. Remember, some people have violent reactions to aspirin but by far and away, millions more benefit.
Common sense needs to be employed in med-mal situations. Unfortunately, the juries are made up of 12 people that weren't smart enough to know how to get out of jury duty.

At August 25, 2005 at 11:25 PM, Blogger The Houston Curmudgeon said...

And, by the way, these eye-popping verdicts don't make the victims rich or whole. Money cannot replace comfort and companionship. However, once the lawyers are behind the cameras you'll see a lot of smiles and frivolity. Kaching, Kaching!

At August 26, 2005 at 7:58 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Anon. 8/25 4:39,
Thanks for your input,Oberwiess.

At August 26, 2005 at 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At August 26, 2005 at 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the better question is why is there (likely one) idiot intent on trying to mess with what has turned out to be a very good blog so far.

At August 26, 2005 at 11:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 8/26 10:58,

amen to that.

At August 26, 2005 at 7:27 PM, Blogger DownLeft said...

How do you know people in Southern Illinois want med-mal reform? Because President Bush went to Madison County and spoke about it? Because some politicians and newspapers said so?

Have you ever met more than a few people from Southern Illinois who were really that concerned about it? Has anyone? Were they concrened about something that happened to them personally, or something scary they read in the newspaper?

The claim that people in Southern Illinois were demanding this is a scam. The whole thing is a scam put on by the insurance industry.

At August 26, 2005 at 7:36 PM, Blogger Rep. John Fritchey said...

Actually, the polling numbers from downstate gave a pretty clear indication that people downstate saw this as a major issue. I think that many would argue that the Maag/Karmeier race was a good barometer of the issue as well.

That having been said, I think that the public opinion that was formed was a direct result of spin put forth by the insurance concerns and the U.S. Chamber.

At August 26, 2005 at 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In all respect to Mr. Fritchey and Down Left, the fifteen hundred people or so that showed up on Lobby Day in Springfield in 2004 all weren't paid by either ISMIE or the Chamber. They were there on their own expense and time.

Maybe you noticed the ten to twenty Alton medical professionals that traveled to Springfield every week this session, wearing their green shirts.

I wish a few Southern Illinois legislators had a blog like this, or at least read this blog, and would share the interaction they have had with constituents in their office and districts.

I hate to say you're wrong, but with all respect to you and what you're doing on this blog, I think you're wrong in your assessment about the roots of this issue.

The only thing fake about this in Southern Illinois is the guy the lawyers paid to represent the "victims". It's not only a disservice to the issue, it's a disservice to the honest victims, who's stories have been tainted.

At August 26, 2005 at 8:17 PM, Blogger Rep. John Fritchey said...

I hear what you're saying but let me clarify. I fully believe that there is an issue with healthcare access in Southern Illinois, I just don't believe that the premium increases were caused by excessive verdicts. The testimony and evidence presented by all sides just didn't back up that position.

As far as input from my colleagues downstate is concerned, by all means encourage them to come join in. I would gladly let any of them post unedited on the subject of their choosing.

At August 27, 2005 at 1:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At August 27, 2005 at 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John makes a good point. Yes there is a problem of high med-mal premiums, but -- as one who spent a lot of time working for the insurance industry -- the problem is driven more by the bizarre world of insurance economics than anything that happens in a courtroom.

At August 27, 2005 at 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what I really respect, the dope who makes juvenile posts at 1:32 in the morning. Get a life.


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