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.