Michael Townes Watson

Insurance Industry Planning New Strategy

With the debate over healthcare policy heating up in the Democratic Presidential race, much of the focus has been on the claimed differences among the various proposals for healthcare reforms. We have heard that there should be systems for electronic medical records; systems for avoiding medication error; different types of provisions for making sure that all Americans have access to insurance coverage. Matters that have not appeared in the recent dialogue include healthcare safety and compensation for those injured by hospitals and doctors. We can be sure that those issues will be a point of discussion, as some of the Republican proposals already talk about reform of the medical liability system.

A little known fact is that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, despite all of their bickering of late over their differences, were at one time surprisingly in accord over the issue of Medical Error and Compensation. In May 2006, they co-authored a bill, and also co-authored an article in NEJM about that bill. The bill, and the article, focused on the fact that there are far too many medical mistakes, and that we must enact policies that will accomplish two goals: (1) lessen the number and impact of medical mistakes, and (2) fairly and reasonably compensate the patient victims who are hurt by medical mistakes. For a copy of the bill, click here.

No matter whom we elect as our next President, and no matter what system we use to provide better access to the healthcare system, we will be making a mistake if we do not lessen the number of serious and disabling injuries that occur every year. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement, founded by Dr. Donald Berwick, a Harvard-trained physician, estimates that there are over 40,000 incidents of medical error in American hospitals every single day. That number is astonishing, and it does not include those hurt outside of hospitals.

Public Citizen Watchdog Blog contained a post discussing the recent insurance industry’s claim that the “tort costs will rise in 2007, 2008 and 2009.” That conclusion should give us a clue that the insurance profiteers are again gearing up to start yet another campaign to limit the rights of injured victims, all in the name of “helping the average guy.”

Bringing affordable, quality, safe healthcare to more Americans is a goal we can accomplish. We can’t allow the entrenched interests to continue an unsafe system that does nothing to compensate its own injured victims.

Michael Townes Watson.

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Posted at 10:04 AM, Dec 17, 2007 in Health Care
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