Monday, July 31, 2006

Social Security phase out to be Republican priority in January

The stakes in the November elections just got clearer. Rep. John Boehner, Republican Majority Leader, says:
"Q: Where does Social Security reform stand?

A: ...If I’m around in a leadership role come January, we’re going to get serious about this."
That means that every vote for a Republican Congressperson on November 8, 2006 is a vote to eliminate fixed, government-guaranteed retirement benefits and disability benefits for workers, as well as survivor benefits for the young families of deceased workers.

There is no adequate substitute for fixed, government-guaranteed benefits like Social Security. Private pensions have failed except as unreliable supplements in every country in which they have been tried. No one has profited except the bankers who manage the money, and theft of the money has been a major problem in both Chile and Great Britain.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lawsuits are not the problem with medical costs - so what is?

The solution to higher medical costs according to the Republicans (led by Senator - Dr. Bill Frist) is to limit jury awards in medical malpractice claims. But research doesn't support this.
"Dr. David Studdert led a team of eight researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham Young University who examined 1,452 medical malpractice lawsuits. They found that more than 90 percent of the claims showed evidence of medical injury, which means they weren't frivolous. In 60 percent of these cases, the injury resulted from physician wrongdoing. In a quarter of the claims, the patient died.

When baseless medical malpractice suits were brought, the study further found, the courts efficiently threw them out. Only 150 of the cases in which the researchers couldn't detect injury received even token compensation. Indeed, a bigger problem was that 256 cases were thrown out of court despite evidence of harm to patients by physicians. The other 1,046 cases, in the research team's opinion, were decided correctly, with damage awards going to the injured and dismissal foiling the frivolous suits."
[From Slate.]
History also shows that Anesthesiologists used to get hit with both the most malpractice suits and the highest malpractice insurance costs. They decided to research the procedures they used.
"in the late 1980s, the American Society of Anesthesiologists launched a project to analyze every claim ever brought against its members and develop new ways to reduce medical error. By 2002, the specialty had one of the highest safety ratings in the profession, and its average insurance premium plummeted to its 1985 level, bucking nationwide trends.

Similarly, feeling embattled by a high rate of malpractice claims, the University of Michigan Medical System in 2002 analyzed all adverse claims and used the data to restructure procedures to guard against error. Since instituting the program, the number of suits has dropped by half, and the university's annual spending on malpractice litigation is down two-thirds. And at the Lexington, Ky., Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a program of early disclosure and settlement of malpractice claims lowered average settlement costs to $15,000, compared with $83,000 for other VA hospitals."
So the problem is NOT medical malpractice law suits. It is dangerous medical procedures which can be avoided by researching the procedures the medical practitioners use.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have proposed legislation which will fund the research into medical procedures that have high problem rates. Think the Republicans will let it pass?