Friday, August 28, 2009

Howard Dean: "No Tort Reform Because Congress Fears Trial Lawyers"

( - Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, a medical doctor who served as governor of Vermont, said at a town hall meeting on Tuesday night that Democrats in Congress did not include tort reform in the health care bill because they were fearful of “taking on” the trial lawyers.

“This is the answer from a doctor and a politician,” said Dean. “Here is why tort reform is not in the bill. When you go to pass a really enormous bill like that the more stuff you put in, the more enemies you make, right? And the reason why tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on, and that is the plain and simple truth. Now, that’s the truth.” LINK

As Ed Morrissey posted here, congress’s refusal to include tort reform in the legislative process makes the Democrats craven and rather callous in their efforts to bring down health care cost.

And, as Morrissey
wrote here, malpractice actions account for around 10% of ALL medical cost. But Ed also concedes that the “chances of any serious tort reform by a "congress full of lawyers" is not likely.”

President Obama has claimed that this nation can no longer afford the cost of healthcare and serious reform is needed. Dean says the writers of the bill chose not to take on the trial lawyers because it would create too many "enemies" at a time when "everybody else they were taking on" is more than enough. One has to wonder who Dean thinks "everybody else" is. With Obama already reaching agreements, (and support), with the giants in the pharmaceutical companies, and the health insurance industry--who have already spent 35 million in lobbying congress to defeat the public option, who are these mysterious enemies that Dean claims congress is taking on? But let's take a moment to look a little further into these "agreements" that are supposed to bring down health care cost.

The Great Pharmaceutical Company Pledge:

Obama said that drug companies have pledged to spend $80 billion over the next decade to help reduce the cost of drugs for seniors and help pay for a portion of Obama's health care legislation.

"This is a significant breakthrough on the road to health care reform, one that will make a difference in the lives of many older Americans," Obama said in the White House's Diplomatic Room.

He was joined by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee who struck the deal with the White House; Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Barry Rand, head of the senior citizens' advocacy group AARP. Notably absent was a representative from the pharmaceutical association.

"It was always designed to be an AARP event," said Ken Johnson, spokesman for the association. "We don't think we should have been invited to it." LINK

In 2007, U.S pharmaceutical companies took in $315 billion in revenues while making the claim the high prices of drugs were necessary for the industry to maintain its research and development. But, and independent report shows pharmaceutical companies actually spend more than twice as much on marketing, advertising, and administration than they do on research and development. Should the “pledge” to Obama and the apparent “agreement” with the AARP go under the marketing portion of the drug company’s budget? Further questions have arisen over AARP’s involvement in the development of the healthcare plan. A recent post in Politico show’s the AARP in a struggle with the drug companies and their control over exclusive rights to sell biologics. A Senate committee is, (so far), planning to leave in this provision of the bill:

"At issue is the creation of a federal approval process for generic biologics, drugs such as insulin that are proteins made by living organisms. Name-brand drug makers want exclusive rights to sell biologics for 12 to 14 years before a similar generic version can be marketed. AARP is pushing for a shorter window.

"We believe strongly, along with many other consumer, business, labor, insurance, [pharmacy benefit managers], and provider groups, that a double digit exclusivity period is simply too long and therefore not acceptable. We would be explicitly negative if this is the bill the Committee reports out," Super wrote." LINK

Explicitly negative? If the AARP and Obama’s Democrats are concerned about bringing down health care cost, why not remove all exclusive rights? This “tangled web” continues here with this assertion from a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist:

"A senior pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, who opposes the AARP-sought changes, said the e-mail illustrates that the seniors' organization, which offers insurance products and could stand to gain from cheaper drug prices, puts its business interests before its public policy concerns.

"The worst kept secret in health care circles is that AARP is more about its insurance wing than it is about seniors. If this isn't the smoking gun, I'm not sure what is," the lobbyist said. "I can't believe that AARP would threaten the Senate with pulling its support for health reform for their insurance wing. They say they have a firewall. Some firewall, huh?" LINK

Which brings us full circle to the insurance industry. The LA Times reports that the health insurance industry has already spent valuable time and money while successfully entrenching legislation into Obama’s (strike) Kennedy’s bill:

"Reporting from Washington - Lashed by liberals and threatened with more government regulation, the insurance industry nevertheless rallied its lobbying and grass-roots resources so successfully in the early stages of the healthcare overhaul deliberations that it is poised to reap a financial windfall.

The half-dozen leading overhaul proposals circulating in Congress would require all citizens to have health insurance, which would guarantee insurers tens of millions of new customers -- many of whom would get government subsidies to help pay the companies' premiums....

..... The bills vary in the degree to which they would empower government to be a competitor and a regulator of private insurance. But analysts said that based on the way things stand now, insurers would come out ahead.

"The insurers are going to do quite well," said Linda Blumberg, a health policy analyst at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, a Washington think tank. "They are going to have this very stable pool, they're going to have people getting subsidies to help them buy coverage and . . . they will be paid the full costs of the benefits that they provide -- plus their administrative costs." LINK

Does anyone care to guess who pays for these “full cost” of benefits? Perhaps the better question is how the President and the Democrats, (in their quest to have the government enter the health care industry), plan to bring down cost? Why not just ask a lobbyist? They seem to have everything figured out. And maybe this was what Dean meant when he said he didn’t think it was a good idea to take on “everybody else”. With the AARP, the insurance industry, and the pharmaceutical companies, and the full weight of their lobbyist entrenched; why not let the lawyers and tort reform into the fray? Or perhaps they’ve already paid their penance long before everybody else.

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