Torts, Filibusters, Health Care Reform and Disastrous Supreme Court Decisions


We are now well into this session of Congress. The Senate has already begun a pace of filibusters that will exceed that of the last session, which was already double the highest number ever. It is very clear. The Neoconservatives are committed not to the constituents who elected them but to large industrial corporations, or Right Wing think tanks, funded by large corporations and by wealthy individuals, like the Scaife Family, and the Koch Family and others. In general, the same people who paid the money to elect Ronald Reagan and the upper and lower Bush houses (not hard to figure out which is which) are those who are funding these filibusters.

You may not like everything about health care reform but it is not enough for Republicans to say that we will simply stop and start over. After all, some Republicans foolishly lost their heads and contributed some good amendments to it. So, why then, did they later come out with a health care plan that is deliberately and obviously written for two groups in particular….pharmaceutical companies and liability insurance companies?

There are many doctors…some are even surgeons who are the best in their field…who literally do not know that there is no relationship whatsoever between medical liability lawsuit payments and medical liability insurance rates. Some do not want to know. Do you know why? They have a vague sense that there is nothing they can do about these high rates anyway. Insurance companies are not covered by anti-trust legislation. So there are no competitors anyway in many cases.

These are doctors, for the most part pretty bright people. Their attorneys have probably explained to some of them that when the stock market goes down, there is suddenly a strange tendency for the liability insurance rates to go up. And suddenly campaigns come out of the woodwork trying to paint trial attorneys as the people actually instigating the lawsuits, not even the persons sitting in a wheelchair, or walking with a cane, or on life support. Or carrying a damaged child.

The fact is that less than one half of one percent of all health care costs are the result of health care claims. Two things you should know. First, that these statistics come from studies done by the national association of state insurance regulators. They say that there is no relationship between the awards to individuals from tort suits and liability insurance rates.

Second, you should know that the information on public and private awards is kept by a group, paid for by insurance companies to keep the actual records. So the information comes from the doctor and is not made unavailable to any outside person or media entity. We do know, however, that doctors win something like 62% of all lawsuits. Many are dismissed. And not long ago, the average amount paid was known to be $420,000. So much for huge multi-million dollar payouts.

So that covers the liability part of the Republican plan, which would devastate any ability by a citizen to be awarded money in sufficient amounts to recover from a serious mistake on the part of a physician or surgeon. The second part is very simple. The Republican plan spends a great deal of time protecting the pharmaceutical companies from competitive situations, from negotiating prices with government entities, and from having products re-imported into the United States.

The point is this. The Republicans used the filibuster to stall health care reform. Why would they do that, if they were serious? They had plenty of opportunities in the Senate to go over and over these issues for months. Now, if they lost those issues, well, welcome to the club. The Democrats lost on the Iraq war, on prescription drugs, on labor issues, and many other issues for 8 years. The size of the health care bill was in part because of the Republican inclusion, not their exclusion. If Democrats would have followed the key wishes of the Democratic majority, this would have been a single-payer plan like Canada or Germany or Switzerland.

The Republicans say that the reason that they are using the filibuster is because it is an old Senate rule and a tradition. But the fact is that the last time it was a point of contention was when Karl Rove and Dick Cheney were lining up any law graduate they could find from Liberty University or other barely accredited law schools to become judges and U.S. Attorneys. The news media reported on Federalist Society lawyers in offices in Washington poring over the qualifications, Right Wing attorneys and interviewing them, not to mention the records of local judges and others who might sit on Federal appeals courts and Federal district courts around the country.

The problem came to a head when, after passing so many of these ideologically Neoconservative candidates, the Bush Administration offered Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. Both were considered by many, based on their records, shills for the Neoconservatives. So the Democrats began to react with the filibuster or the threat of it.

We now see that was the Democrats trying to protect us, unsuccessfully, against the kinds of things that eventually happened…for example, the Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to buy electoral offices of candidates for national, regional and local offices. But the Republicans threatened to change the rules of the Senate completely and ram through any kind of legislation they wanted.

Now, after 112 uses of that filibuster, as opposed to the eight or nine that the Democrats used years ago to try to prevent the packing of the legal system with Karl Rove appointees, the Democrats have had enough. This is very important stuff. And there is very little reason, except for the opposition of the hugely profitable health insurance industry, that should keep Americans from having affordable health care as every other nation in the advanced world has today…and have had for an entire generation. We are not behind by two or three or five years. We are behind by twenty or thirty years at a minimum!

So it is time to end filibusters and to pass health care on reconciliation. And you need to tell your Senator and your House member that very thing. Today. We cannot let this opportunity pass to prevent another disaster like the recent Supreme Court decision. We may not even survive that one. We need to pass health care reform now.