Saturday, April 29, 2006

On Health Care and Lawyers

Dave Budge has had an interesting discussion with Touchstone about universal health care, and the costs of health insurance. I am for universal health care just as soon as we get that perpetual motion energy source going too. It's a great idea, but making it work seems to defy reality.
But my comments here refer to a quote about some possible solutions. Specifically:
. . . 4) Reform malpractice lawsuits, at the very least, by requiring an affidavit from a medical professional that actual malpractice has occurred, and by allowing insurers and customers to enter voluntary arbitration agreements.

5) Suspend the medical licenses of negligent physicians on the first offense. This should not, by the way, be an AMA responsibility. We want this decision to be made by some body independent of the AMA, whose primary goal, of course, is to protect doctors.

In Montana, like a lot of states, we use the Medical/Legal malpractice panel to evaluate suits. If the panel feels that there was malpractice, then the plaintiff is given a letter of right to sue. Should the panel find against the plaintiff, then the plaintiff has to sue without the letter. Big Deal.

The first thing that needs to be done with regard to malpractice suits is to admit that medicine is as much art as science. In science, you have to control for the variables. In medicine, there are approximately 6 billion variables, or the total population of the planet. Everyone can react differently to the same procedure.
Sure doctors wear the white lab coat and are well versed in physics, chemistry, biochem etc. But like all of these stupid commercials telling us to see a doctor about a condition that we probably don't have, in order to determine if we should get a medecine that we don't need, there are a string of caveats that follow at the end of these commercials that warn of side effects. And those are only the ones of any statistical significance.

Let's start out with the assumption that most doctors are professionals, using their best professional judgment. Now let's throw in the exceptions; the doctors who are drunk or stoned (they are human after all), so how do you resolve treating them all the same in a court of law? Beats me.

The cure for the malpractice litigation may lie in the imposition of penalties and lawyers fees. For instance, your child has been born with brain damage. You are in such anguish, you want to make someone pay for the terrible tragedy so you sue. But the fact is, sometimes, some really awful sh*t happens. It's really nobody's fault. Now if the doctor was coming straight from the jail where he had just been arrested for DUI, you probably have a good case.

The old standard used to be "Gross negligence" in order to recover in a suit. Now the standard really is can you convince a jury that your client needs to recover. I am thinking of the former senator from North Carolina who bought a seat from the proceeds of his suits against doctors for something that has since been proved to be totally not their fault.

But in order to begin fixing med mal, you need to look at who is making the money. And the answer is that the lawyers on both sides are. My limited experience in malpractice (against another lawyer for sending a guy to prison wrongly) is that the defense lawyers made a killing. I would send a letter to the opposing counsel, let's say one and a half pages. He would spend and hour and a half considering all of the legal issues at $250 per hour, another half hour drafting a response, and then include my letter back to me stating that he was in receipt of my letter. Why did he do that? Because he would charge a buck a page to copy it, when the real costs were less than 5 cents, or $501.90 in profit. What a racket.

Plaintiff's lawyers aren't much better. Typically, a lawyer will charge 1/3 to 1/2 as a contingency fee. Sure they bear all of the costs, but those are removed from the client's settlement first. I read somewhere that only 10% of plaintiff's suits pay out. That is why they get such high fees, in order to make up for the 90% that fail. This is grossly ineffective.

So, my solution is instead of universal health care, let's make national legal care for malpractice. Take malpractice out of the hands of lawyers looking for a killing and make it only possible for government lawyers to sue or defend med mal cases. You take away the profit motive, while still preserving the patient's right to recover for gross negligence. Sure, government lawyers would lack the incentive to fight to the death on every issue, but that may not be such a bad thing.

Could be just as effective if not more effective than anything else that I have seen for fixing the problem.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What to do about Iran?

Much smoke and noise is being made about the Mad Mullahs making their own nukes, and what we are going to do about it. In the article above, it points out the problems with using military forces against Iran, and how that may solidify support for the regime.
We could also continue to use economic sanctions, which almost never work. In fact teh only one that comes to mind is South Africa. Otherwise, pariah states are always able to find someone to trade with for what they need.
My solution is the complete lifting of all economic sanctions in Iran, then bombing them with Victoria's Secret catalogs and credit cards. How long do you think that the mullahs can keep control once the Iranians have access to soft porn and the ability to buy it?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Generals vs. Rumsfeld

Belly at Left in the West has a posting about the confrontation between the generals who oppose Rumsfeld and those who support him. He argues that this is a good thing, that it is healthy to have debate and dissension in the military. Oh, the lack of military experience is so telling these days.
Kind of reminds me of February of 1993, when the FIRST thing that Clinton did in office was the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. There was a lot of grumbling among the field grade officers that I knew until the Colonel came out and called a formation and informed us that President Clinton is the President, regardless of the fact that he had not garnered a majority of the popular vote. Our duty was to uphold the Constitution, and the fact was that he is our Commander in Chief. If we couldn't support him in his legally prescribed duties, we had a duty to offer our resignation. Pretty much shut us all up at that moment, because it reminded us that we are servants of the civilian leadership.
These generals that have retired and now, 3 years later are saying that Rumsfeld was "abusive" or didn't take their advice are playing a dangerous game. To think that generals are unable to deal with abusive behavior is like the pot calling the kettle, yada yada yada.
If they really did have a problem with Rumsfeld, they could have announced their retirement/resignation (there is a difference) and not participated. Instead, they seem to wait until after they are safely drawing their retirement pay to start carping. Very curious indeed.
But these are not moralists remedying a problem at the cost of their careers. These are like General Maxwell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs who stayed on with President Johnson, even though he knew that what was being done was wrong or criminal. Trying to claim the moral high ground by complaining about the civilian leadership while safely retired is more an example of cowardice than heroisim.
We in the military are tasked with enforcing the Constitution, but are not allowed to take advantage of it. For instance, if you are on active duty, you cannot place a partisan sign in your yard. An infringement on the basic right of free speech, not to mention that of your spouse. But it makes sense.
Elections change parties, and the military has to serve whoever the American public selects. To be able to pick and choose between who you want to serve is the first step in the destruction of the Constitution.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I am running

At the last moment, I threw in my nomination for MT House District 96 candidacy as a Republican. I am of course, really more Libertarian, but of the two major parties, the ideals of the Republicans line up more closely than that of the Democrats.
After I submitted my nomination paperwork, I had initial misgivings, and thought about withdrawing. But then I thought, "What the heck?" The worst that would happen is that I would get elected, and be sentenced to 90 days in Helena during the winter.
I am running as a fiscal conservative, and therefore, won't spend any money nor solicit donations. No signage, advertisements or anything else that cost money.
Nor am I going to harass my neighbors by banging on their doors at dinner time. If they want to know where I stand, I will set up an appointment and come to see them.
Could be a hoot.
I started a campaign blog at Steve for HD 96 here.

Good analysis of politics at the moment

The article above is a very good synopsis of the present situation. I especially liked the comment "There are too many politicians and not enough statesmen."
At teh moment, I can only think of two potential statesmen, Joe Lieberman and John McCain. Neither of which is expecially beloved by his party at the moment.
Maybe that is the secret to being a statesman.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Jimmy Carter on being a Democrat

I borrowed this from the Best of the Web, mostly because I couldn't believe it:

John F. Sugg interviews Jimmy Carter for Creative Loafing Atlanta:

Carter fittingly used a parable to illustrate how he'd like to see the political/religious debate unfold.

"I was teaching a Sunday school class two weeks ago," he recalls. "A girl, she was about 16 years old from Panama City [Fla.], asked me about the differences between Democrats and Republicans.

"I asked her, 'Are you for peace, or do you want more war?' Then I asked her, 'Do you favor government helping the rich, or should it seek to help the poorest members of society? Do you want to preserve the environment, or do you want to destroy it? Do you believe this nation should engage in torture, or should we condemn it? Do you think each child today should start life responsible for $28,000 in [federal government] debt, or do you think we should be fiscally responsible?'

"I told her that if she answered all of those questions, that she believed in peace, aiding the poor and weak, saving the environment, opposing torture . . . then I told her, 'You should be a Democrat.' "

Sugg doesn't say if Carter was talking with his eyes closed.

So, let me rephrase Mr. Carter's answers for the sake of discussion

Are you for surrender, or do you believe that freedom is worth fighting for? Do you favor taking money with the threat of incarceration for no better reason than you can, in order to buy votes? Do you want to destroy all forms of employment in the name of protecting the environment, or are you willing to actually do some deep and hard thinking? Do you think that it is fair to torture the American people with trite and contrived accusations or do you believe in finding out the truth?

Sheesh, Just goes to prove the axiom "Never listen to anybody who's philosophy can fit onto a bumper sticker.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

McKinney as a verb

Politicians know that the worst thing in the world is to be laughed at, especially when you didn't mean it to happen. But the best ones to laugh at, are those who don't even realize that they are being ridiculous. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D. Ga.), recently attacked some poor security guard of the Capital Police, because he didn't recognize her new hairdo, and she wasn't using her ID pin as she walked around a security check point. Trying to stop the good Congresswoman, he came under attack from her and her cell phone.
Now McKinney is claiming that the only reason she attacked the policeman is because he is a racist. In fact, her lawyer is now claiming that the Congresswoman is guilty of being in Congress while black and female. I am sure that Shirley Chisolm is rolling in her grave over the legacy that she had created.
McKinney's baseless accusations of racism have brought to mind a new verb to deal with warrantless allegations of racism, sexism, homophobia, whatever: To McKinney someone. As in, "You called me a racist? Are you McKinneying me?" To show the ludicrousness of the accusation.
Charges of racism are easily laid, and impossible to disprove, shifting the burden unfairly onto an innocent victim, who can never recover. Now, the victim can just ask the accuser; Are you McKinneying me? to show that the accusation is without merit, absent some real evidence.
Could be fun.