The increasingly likely combination of Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) have teamed up to reintroduce the "Trial Lawyers Full Employment Act" - whoops, sorry, the "Bipartisan Patient Protection Act" of 2001.
The bill is touted as permitting patients to sue their HMOs, ignoring that fact that patients already can. What the bill really would do is expand the amount of damages a patient could be awarded, up to $5 million in federal court, making possible huge fees for the lawyers bringing the cases.
Why not allow patients to receive large payments from HMOs? One problem is the difficulty of determining, after the case, if a proposed treatment would have worked. Thus, as Grace-Marie Arnett writes in the April 2001 edition of The Heartland Institute's "Health Care News," even if an HMO provided "ordinary care," it could be sued and lose for not providing expensive treatments that are unlikely to work. Higher health care premiums - possibly sharply higher - would become necessary to pay not only for the lawsuits, but also for defensive medicine.
Arnett also notes that, "no matter how many assurances are offered to the contrary, disgruntled workers will be free to launch separate lawsuits against their employers for having selected a particular health plan in the first place." The inevitable result: employers will stop providing employees with health insurance.
Arnett recommends that, instead of empowering people to sue, we should empower them to choose: namely, HMOs or other health insurance plans that meet their needs. Our current health care system, with its reliance on employer-selected plans, gives health insurance little financial incentive to keep individual customers happy.
Arnett's piece, "'Bill of Rights' a Boon to Lawyers, Not Patients" is available at http://www.heartland.org/health/apr01/rights.htm.
Thanks to megalaw.com for this legal levity:
A lawyer and an engineer went fishing in the Caribbean. The lawyer said: "I'm here because my house burned down and everything I owned was destroyed. The insurance company paid for everything."
"That's quite a coincidence," said the engineer. "I'm here because my house and all my belongings were destroyed in a flood, and my insurance company paid for everything."
The lawyer looked confused. "How do you start a flood?"
Remember the election-night lawsuit in St. Louis, which argued that polling places in heavily-Democratic St. Louis should be open later than other areas of the state, because long lines were keeping some voters from voting?
The voter who "filed" that lawsuit had been dead for a year, reports the Feb. 28 Los Angeles Times. Seems the lawyer who filed the suit had prepared it in the name of a Robert D. Odom, but Odom complicated matters by voting without difficulty. So the lawyer filed the suit in the name of the only other Odom he could find who happened to be dead.
Next time sometime says: "Meet me
in St. Louis," beware: they may be talking about meeting
in the hereafter.