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Health Care Reform: Patients’ Rights Not A Bargaining Chip

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As members of Congress return to Washington, AAJ is pushing back on the empty rhetoric and mistruths that have polluted the health care debate. Throughout August, defenders of the status quo have sought to poison dialogue by shouting rumors of death panels and rationing while pushing so-called “common-sense” proposals like tort reform.

Last weekend, former Senator Bill Bradley wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in which he suggested that the president serve up the civil justice system as an olive branch to Republicans – as if this would convince them to support Democrats’ health care bills. Bradley proposed that something “as commonsensical as the establishment of medical courts” would help lower costs.

In a response to Bradley’s op-ed, AAJ President Anthony Tarricone wrote that “The ‘grand bipartisan compromise’ proposed by…Bradley would force Americans to trade one right for another.” He went on to point out that health courts “would not only make it more difficult for injured patients to hold wrongdoers accountable, but also create an entirely new bureaucracy with costs far exceeding the system we now have to address medical negligence.”

To push back on these misconceptions, AAJ will host a press briefing tomorrow to educate the media on its position on health care reform: that patients’ legal rights are not a bargaining chip. Roll Call, a newspaper covering Congressional and legislative news, took note of AAJ’s response, writing:

“The trial lawyers’ lobby, worried that tort reform could become a bargaining chip in the health care debate, is lashing out this week against efforts to include medical malpractice limits in health care reform bills…Linda Lipsen, the top lobbyist for the American Association for Justice, said the group grew concerned over the August recess as the rhetoric heated up and Members flirted with possible bipartisan compromises that could include tort reforms.”

While AAJ steps up its efforts, there have been some great columns shedding light on the tort reform straw man. Columnist Scott Maxwell, citing the Congressional Budget Office’s report on malpractice costs, asked in the Orlando Sentinel this weekend if his readers would be “willing to chip away [their] own rights — not to mention the Bill of Rights — so that [their] monthly premiums would drop from $225…to $220.”

Over 98,000 Americans are needlessly killed every year by medical errors, the equivalent of two 737s crashing every day. Focusing on reducing medical errors would not only lower the $29 billion they add to America’s health care spending annually, but also decrease the number of medical negligence lawsuits. And that’s something everyone should be able to get behind.

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  1. Facebook User says:
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    Good blog Cecelia. Bill Bradley’s a well-credentialed guy: Princeton, Oxford (Rhodes scholar), …etc. So when he says why not have a “grand bipartisan compromise” of “medical courts” folks in Washington have been listening.

    But what voice is he speaking with? His former democratic Senator voice? Or the voice of a managing director of Allen & Co.?

    ALLEN & CO.? Who? Good question, here’s what CNN’s Money website says about Allen & Co.: “Allen & Co. is a consummate niche player. Its specialty: forging long-lasting and lucrative relationships with corporate leaders.” Lucrative – adjective- profitable; moneymaking; remunerative: a lucrative business.

    Corporate leaders…sounds like he’s moved pretty far from his roots.

    Maybe it’s the voice of a member of the Advisory Board of Common Good. Here’s what they’re all about:

    MISSION

    Common Good is a non-profit, non-partisan legal reform coalition dedicated to restoring common sense to America. By conducting polls, hosting forums, and engaging with leaders in health care, education, law, business, and public policy from across the country, Common Good is developing practical solutions to restore reliability to our legal system and minimize the impact of legal fear in American life.

    “Legal reform coalition” – that’s corporate speak for tort reform. They represent all the big guys who profit by denying rights to the injured and voiceless in our society.

    So, I say “NO” to Senator Bradley. He’s selling out his former credentials for big business and the clients of his firm.