Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Founded by Mark Kleiman (1951-2019)
The Meaning of Malpractice Reform for Republicans
Malpractice reform is so important to Republicans that they will never support it.
Jonathan Cohn suggests that Obama should embrace medical malpractice reform as part of health care overhaul.Â He’s right: real malpractice reform, such as the “Sorry Works” plan adopted by the University of Michigan health system, is a promising way to cut costs at the margin.Â It won’t have a major impact, but it might also foster compensation.Â Cohn’s other major suggestion — retooling medical malpractice into a third-party no-fault system resembling workers’ compensation — also has promise.Â Despite all of workers’ comp’s problems, and there are many, it still is better than the tort system; it’s 23% rate of administrative costs is less than half that of the tort system.
Cohn asks, at the end of the piece, whether Republicans would ever take yes for an answer, and the answer, of course, is no.Â But this is not simply because the GOP s dedicated to defeating the bill no matter what.
Instead, the answer in my view is a little more bizarre: the GOP needs malpractice reform so much that it will never enact it.Â Yes, you read that right.
The Republicans have a key problem concerning health care reform: they basically don’t believe in it.Â For truly principled conservatives, health insurance is like a widget: if you have the money you buy it, and if you don’t have the money you don’t.Â That’s what it really means to have the market sort things out.Â But they can’t say that, because that would be grotesquely unpopular.Â What to do?
Answer: hang onto seemingly appealing but actually impotent ideas like tort reform, or seemingly appealing but horribly dangerous ideas like removing state insurance regulations.Â But don’t ever enact them, because then it will become apparent that your idea don’t work.
Don’t believe me?Â Well, recall who ran all three branches of government for four years.Â Do you remember them enacting malpractice reform?Â Me, neither.
Importantly, the GOP Congress did enact legislation with the Orwellian name of the Class Action Fairness Act, which was designed to stifle class actions.Â When it wanted to pass legal reform, it did so.Â But it never passed malpractice reform because Republican leaders knew that that would rob it of a platform.
So don’t hold your breath on this one, either.Â Republicans are very principled: they believe in putting party over country, and nothing will stop them in that.
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.
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