Monday, February 17, 2003

Who benefits from tort "reform?" Doctors and Big Insurance, says the Washington Post:
Democrats point to the aggressive lobbying by doctors and insurance companies as proof of who benefits under the plan.

The American Medical Association, which represents doctors, has made the Bush plan its top priority for this congressional session and is flying doctors to Washington to make its case.

The AMA gave $1.6 million to GOP candidates for the 2002 elections. A different group of doctors and health care providers is underwriting a national advertising campaign to highlight the need for federal caps on lawsuits. The campaign is managed from the lobbying office of former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour, a Bush fundraiser.

Physicians, who would likely see their insurance premiums drop by several thousands of dollars each year under Bush's plan, have invested heavily in the president and his party. Over the past two years, they have given $17.5 million, or two-thirds of their contributions, to the Republican Party, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

With Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a physician, running the Senate, with Bush running for reelection and with medical malpractice legislation running into trouble, Republican fundraisers expect doctors to play an even bigger role in the 2004 elections. AMA president-elect Donald J. Palmisano warned in an interview that Democrats "will lose support" from doctors in upcoming elections if they sink the Bush plan.

At the same time, physician-owned insurance companies, which provide most of the nation's medical malpractice coverage, are stepping up their own lobbying on behalf of the Bush plan. Even the nation's big-name insurance companies that quit providing malpractice coverage years ago are jumping into the fight because the Bush plan would make the malpractice market potentially lucrative again. It also would lay the groundwork for broader limits on lawsuits.

The medical malpractice fight is "a very good leading edge, if you will, of the desperate need we have in this country for meaningful tort reforms," said Dave Golden of the National Association of Independent Insurers.

Any of you with sharp eyes catch that last paragraph? "Broader limits on lawsuits." Yet more evidence that medical malpractice is just the first fusillade in a broad effort to limit lawsuits.

Big Insurance wants to rule the world [sigh]....

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