Wednesday, January 05, 2005

NPR and the Politics of Tort Reform

On the way home from work this evening I found myself in full blown battlefield debate with my radio as I listened to NPR's Julie Rovner describe why President Bush supports tort reform.

Rovner explained that Bush is merely fulfilling a campaign promise. Rovner says that doctors who are paying too much for medical malpractice insurance are "Republican allies." And that, in the process of supporting his allies, the president "demonizes trial lawyers" who are among "Democrats' major contributors." She referred to this as a "two-fer."

So if I got this straight, President Bush is supporting tort reform not because of any principaled reason, but because he has to pay back his friends and frustrate his poltical enemies.

She goes on to say that this is purely political posturing by Bush, but it is quite savvy because it involves a "health care issue," which has been, up to now, "a Democrat issue."

Rovner droned on that, though the President sees malpratice insurance and related tort reform as a mandate from the election, that voters who really care about health care, "voted for the other guy." Really?

But what Bush is proposing to do is based upon a successful California model which appears to be working to keep costs down. The law places a cap only on the "pain and suffering" component of such law suits, and it attempts to cut down on the frivolous suits discouraging ballooning awards by juries which mainly benefit trial lawyers anyway, and not the victims.

But Rovner reminds us that this is not a new reform (i.e., Bush has no imagination). The House voted for such reform eight times, but in Rovner's world of a true democracy, "you need 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filabuster." I see, we need 5 more than the majority we have in the Senate. I see. The fact that there are more Republicans in the Senate from the election of 2004, Rovner assures us, "won't help enough. They would only have 52" out of the current Senate, but "that's fewer than the 60 they will need." And I'm listening to this?

Such reforms, she assures us, "won't really save us much money....President Bush talks about $40, $50, $60 Billion, but we spend $1.4 Trillion every year on health care."

Maybe the reason we spend $1.4 trillion on health care has a little to do with the out-of-control costs to cover medical malpractice insurance which gets flowed down to the patients, and to the insurance companies.

Do they really believe this stuff? And do they really expect the listening audience to buy it too? It is amazing how easy it is to guess which way people like Rovner voted last November. My guess is that it was "for the other guy."

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