Sunday, January 30, 2011

President's State of the Union Address Targets Frivolous Lawsuits: Was I Dreaming?

We watched the president’s State of the Union address recently with the kids, to try and inculcate them with civic interest and responsibility. He is an inspiring and skilled speaker whose words seem to transcend partisanship and divisiveness. Nothing like an electoral ‘shellacking’ to push a politician into a Kumbaya mode. I thought the speech was long on ideals but sidestepped the pain and sacrifice it would take to reach the objectives the president outlined. I was waiting to hear the president’s plans regarding Medicare and Social Security, and I’m still waiting. The president took such a high road, that it was in the stratosphere, beyond real life.


Here’s what he said:

 ...by the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

Here’s what he didn’t say:

...to save Social Security we are cutting benefits and raising the age when seniors can collect.

I’m not a journalist or a speechwriter, but my understanding is that the reverse pyramid system is used, meaning you start off with the important stuff and proceed toward the trivial. This is why The New York Times piece on the speech did not open with a comment on the president’s tie.

The following three subjects were included in the President’s speech. Place them in the order of importance.

The War in Afghanistan

The Peace in Iraq

Medical Malpractice Reform

Has the president experienced a Damascus Road conversion on the medical malpractice situation.? Not only did he acknowledge that frivolous lawsuits are real and are not simply physicians’ phantasmagoria, but he addressed the issue before mentioning Iraq and Afghanistan. Am I reading too much into this? Here’s what he said.

Still, I'm willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.

Does the president really get it, or is he the wily political pragmatist who now views life through the prism of 2012? I suspect the latter because if medical malpractice reform were truly important to the president, then he would have insisted it be included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known to many as Obamacare. Time will tell if this plan is affordable and protects our health, as suggested by the law’s name.  Put me in the deeply skeptical category.

Yes, the president is a facile orator. The State of His Rhetoric is strong. The State of the Union, however…

12 comments:

Toni Brayer, MD said...

Who cares about the motive. This is a real breakthrough and it's high time it gets addressed. Hopefully the republicans will run with it.

Ariella said...

I think it's all about the buildup- you start slow until you hit the crescendo. Although I'm glad the president talked about malpractice, I have a feeling that the two wars America is fighting are a little bit higher on his priority list...

In any case, the fact that something was or was not in his healthcare plan might have more to do with trying to get the bill passed, and less to do with what is actually important.

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Ariella, nice to have you back on the blog. I agree with you that war is a higher priority than medical malpractice reform, and I thought the latter seemed a bit 'stuck in' the president's speech, as if it didn't belong there. Personally, I don't think the president has much passion for this issue and I don't expect to see much traction on it.

tracy said...

My favorite part was "Win The Future" WTF?????

A. Bailey said...

As bad a term as Obama has had, he can reverse the whole thing if he handles the Egyptian crisis with skill and leadership. I for one don't think he can, but in the interest of national and global security I hope he does.

Malpractice reform would also be nice.

Anonymous said...

Yawn. Saying "I want to rein in frivolous lawsuits" is meaningless. Those who spew that line don't really want "reform". They want to pay less in claims or premiums. Helping the victims of malpractice means little to them.

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

I disagree that we are not interested to help victims of medical malpractice. Keep in mind that the vast majority of these victims are missed by the current system and are not compensated. Wouldn't this fact suggest that the medical liability system be reformed?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you're "interested" in the abstract. But let's be honest, you're not interested in writing any checks to all those people that are missed, and neither is your insurer. It shows in the legislation your propose. Talk is cheap.

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Abstract? I'm told that I am a very concrete individual. I am interested in a system that compensates a high fraction of those who are victims of medical negligence and targets a low fraction of innocent physicians. Any argument here?

Anonymous said...

I wasn't commenting on your personality as a whole. Just your position on this issue. No one is arguing that your goals aren't worthy. Just the means that you offer to achieve them don't accomplish your goals in any way.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that I read this post.

medical malpractice insurance companies said...

You are not dreaming. All those things are happening in our community and the only thing that we can do is face it and try to get used to that fact.

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