Another GOP Talking Point Bites the Dust

Demonstrating the stunning success of medical malpractice reform.

Anthem Blue Cross, California’s largest for-profit health insurer, wants to raise its rates by a staggering 39%.

That’s an outrage!  If California had adopted Republican tort reform plans then this wouldn’t have happened!

Oh, wait

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

17 thoughts on “Another GOP Talking Point Bites the Dust”

  1. My favorite fact about capping malpractice awards isn't that it's had no effect on medical costs; it's that it's had no effect even on the cost of malpractice insurance.

  2. But, Warren, that's silly. By the same exact reasoning by which Obama claims to have created or saved some arbitrary number of jobs which varies from press conference to press conference, we can authoritatively state that capping malpractice awards HAS reduced the cost of malpractice insurance. Since it theoretically should have, according to our reasoning, all we're seeing is that it's reduced them from the even higher rates they would have reached absent the caps.

  3. Thanks, Brett. I look forward to your defenses of Obama's stimulus plan. Oh wait…. That would require consistency and arguing in good faith….

  4. In the engineering arena, it's been a watchword for some years that companies forced to comply with harsh regulatory requirements on their home turf do better in international competition, because they've already done most of the heavy lifting required for efficiency and effectiveness. Similarly, when a company is relying on tricks like rescission for its profit margin, you can bet they've gotten fat and lazy elsewhere. So when rescission goes away their own recourse is to try and raise prices.

  5. Brett Bellmore says:

    "But, Warren, that’s silly. By the same exact reasoning by which Obama claims to have created or saved some arbitrary number of jobs which varies from press conference to press conference, we can authoritatively state that capping malpractice awards HAS reduced the cost of malpractice insurance. Since it theoretically should have, according to our reasoning, all we’re seeing is that it’s reduced them from the even higher rates they would have reached absent the caps."

    Jesus Christ, Brett, you aren't even trying anymore. I won't ask if you have the faintest f*cking clue as to how such things are measured, because you don't. Tell you what – you explain what the estimator in a fuzzy RD design means, and how instrumental variables tie into that, and I'll listen to you. Demonstrate that you've read and undersood this article, and I'll respect you ('Econometric Causality', by James Heckman: http://www.citeulike.org/user/arsyed/article/2756…. That's a free article; you shouldn't need any subscription to get it. If you do, I'll send you a copy.

    Meanwhile, STFU while the adults talk.

  6. Hmm. And the health "plan" (which, apparently, I am a progressive traitor for despising and hoping will fail) would help this HOW?

    As I keep pointing out, no NORMAL person gives a damn about health INSURANCE, what matters is health CARE. Insurance is a means to this end, and every indication is that it is a singularly crappy means towards this end. So a bill that mandates it for the entire country and forces the US to continue down its current stupid path, rather than adopting the better models used by other countries is a good idea why exactly? The same people who are appalled at the way Wall Street has behaved and continues to behave assure us that "economic theory" and "competition" will, once the health bill is in place, magically change the system from the way it has behaved over the past forty years. Pardon me if I consider this to be a load of crap.

  7. Brett, this is my invitation for you to join the world of controlled experiments. You see, some states – some very large states – have capped malpractice awards. Other states, including some very large states, have not. And — get this — you can see what's happened to malpractice insurance premiums in states that do and that do not have these caps. Thus, you find out whether the caps had any effect. Hint: the answer is no. It's not a very subtle hint, I'll concede.

    To perform a similar comparison to authoritatively demonstrate whether the stimulus indeed had an effect, you'd have to find an America that did not enact any stimulus, in order to find out whether, as Obama and his administration have asserted, the stimulus saved a lot of jobs and other pain. An assertion, I note, that is supported by essentially every other serious person, including even the economists employed by the Heritage Foundation, not a place I would normally turn to for seriousness but certainly no friends to Obama. If you can find such an America, I don't think I'd want to live there, but I might invite purveyors of thought-free talking points such as those you propagated in your comment to go there.

  8. @ Maynard

    no NORMAL person gives a damn about health INSURANCE

    spoken like someone who's got good health insurance. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of people – as in, tens of millions – who could at any moment care deeply about health insurance, and all too many who do so already. Many, many more have insurance, but because of exemptions for "pre-existing conditions", rescission, and lack of subsidies they can't use it, can't trust it, or may not keep it.

    Look, if you want to argue that this bill does not do what it's advertised to do in terms of guaranteeing access to reliable insurance, you might have a point. But saying that insurance doesn't matter just makes you sound witless. And saying you'd rather wait for single-payer, or perhaps single-provider, is just heartless. I'd likely prefer either to what we've got, but I can't see the slightest chance of either being legislated in the foreseeable future; can you? Should everyone who needs care and can't get it just wait for the Revolution?

  9. "spoken like someone who’s got good health insurance."

    Ah, yes, this old trope. It tells you something about rhetoric on blogs that every time I criticize the health bill, this issue is immediately raised — OBVIOUSLY I must be some self-satisfied a**hole with great insurance who doesn't give a damn about anyone else. I mean, god forbid I actually think the bill is bad on its merits — you know, like I actually argued.

    As for my great health insurance, I am in mid-40s, unemployed, with no health insurance of any kind (including no spousal coverage). What do you think of your line of argument now? Proud of it?

    As for "saying that insurance doesn’t matter just makes you sound witless". Really? So the lack of insurance in, say, the VA system, or standard medicare, or the UK NHS serve as proof of what exactly — that no medical system can function unless it is based on insurance?

    The difference between you and me is that you, like the average American apparently, can't see further than one election cycle into the future. Sure this bill won't solve any of the real problems in the system, and will make future change that much more difficult but. WTF, those are 2016's problems, and as long as I can close my eyes until then, who cares? I would like to be alive 40 years from now, and I like the medical system we construct to be doing a good job then, not the same half-assed crap as now, only worse.

  10. Ah. I retract my initial assumption about your insurance status. I stand by the rest of my comment, and I take it that you have answered my terminal question in the affirmative.

  11. Hi Maymard Handley- Seems there is a semantical disagreement. I'm currently living in sweden and refer to my health coverage as insurance in that my care providers submit a bill for services rendered and are payed for those services because I am enrolled in the single payer system that insures my healthcare. Similarly my mom and sister are insured by Medicare in the USA. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

    As to the quality of the current healthcare bill, I am very concerned about whether it will improve things or make them worse. That said the one thing about it that makes me lean towards supporting it is that it does establish the presedent of federal regulation of insurance. Taking on the travesty of pre-existing conditions, recission, etc. has to start somewhere.

    But gosh they have made a hash of it. Maybe this upcoming confab with the "loyal opposition" (if that in fact happens) will finally give the Democrats the balls to kick the obstructionists to the curb and ram through the amendments necessary to make it workable. Or maybe there will be a miracle and they will realize they can sweep the table and become heros for half a century by passing a simple Medicare for Everybody plan through reconciliation. Hope springs eternanl and if wishes were horses…

  12. Brett Bellmore says:

    "But, Warren, that’s silly. By the same exact reasoning…"

    Wrong again, Brett. D*mn, but you and truth just ain't on speakin' terms, is you now?

  13. "As for my great health insurance, I am in mid-40s, unemployed, with no health insurance of any kind (including no spousal coverage). What do you think of your line of argument now? Proud of it?"

    I don't believe you. I'd like you to prove this, because Anonymous internet person can claim to be whomever they wish. I'll bet you are filthy rich with a Cadillac insurance plan, and claiming to be a poor unemployed uninsured is a ruse. The Paultards did this same thing 2 years ago, claiming to be black to prove that Ron Paul fans aren't racists.

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