Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On medical malpractice Obama still won't buck the trial lawyers

President Obama made a gesture towards reform of medical malpractice in his speech to the AMA yesterday. But that was all it was - a gesture. He explicitly warned them that he wouldn't go far enough to endorse any reform that would really address how fear of malpractice suits is distorting our medical system and driving up costs. First he said that he was willing to explore a range of ideas, but then cautioned the doctors not to get too excited.
Mr. Obama's cri de coeur might have had more credibility had he not specifically ruled out the one policy to deter frivolous suits. "Don't get too excited yet," he warned the cheering AMA members. "Just hold onto your horses here, guys. . . . I want to be honest with you. I'm not advocating caps on malpractice awards."
That's Obama's idea of exploring a range of ideas - to rule out the necessary reform to accomplish the ideas he says he's willing to explore. In other words - he's willing to make some token reforms, but nothing real. As the WSJ writes,
The trial bar and its Democratic allies say that the threat of lawsuits promotes better care and assures accountability. But they've fought even modest changes that would offer liability protection if doctors adhere to evidence-based guidelines. Mr. Obama showed again with his AMA speech that he's willing to nod at the concerns of his political opponents and take media credit for brave truth-telling, only to dump his conciliation if it offends liberal interest groups.

Mr. Obama's aides have openly told the press that he views medical liability as a "credibility builder" -- that is, a token policy to keep the health-care industry at the bargaining table. Given that the only "bargain" that seems likely to emerge is another major step toward total government control of the health markets, the President seems to be counting on credulity.
Apparently, the trial lawyers, like the unions are too important as supporters of the Democratic Party for Obama to take any other position. So he adopts the position he likes to take on all such issues. Proclaim that he's open to new ideas and then rule out anything that is in opposition to where he wants to go anyway. That's fine for a bargaining position, but the doctors should realize that there is little in such a position for them. They need to withhold their applause and not get suckered in.