Nov 6 2010

What Do Elvis Costello And Tort “Reform” Have In Common?

As I sat by the radio last night trying not to retch, Rita Houston, an otherwise competent DJ at the Bronx’s own WFUV-FM, interviewed Elvis Costello in a manner that I will politely call “overly respectful.”  And it disturbed me, because he does not deserve to be treated like a king.

Remember the pop tune “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?”?  Although it was written by Nick Lowe, it was popularized by Elvis Costello.  And as it turns out, the spirit of the song is not truly reflective of Elvis’s own views, which are rather narrow, and not overly generous.  He said so himself, in  way, in the NY Times.

Two weeks before Mr. Costello canceled his performances, scheduled for June 30 and July 1 at the ancient Roman amphitheater in Caesaria, he told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that the people calling for a boycott “own the narrow view that thinks performing there must be about profit and endorsing the hawkish policy of the government. It’s like never appearing in the U.S. because you didn’t like Bush’s policies or boycotting England because of Margaret Thatcher,” he said.

And yet, boycotting Israel, by canceling his shows there, is exactly what Elvis did, after having a sudden crisis of “instinct and conscience.”  How did such a sea change happen so quickly?  And if it was truly a matter of conscience, how is it that Elvis continues to perform, on a regular basis, without protest, in the lands of Bush and Margaret Thatcher?  Surely there were actions and inactions and policies of the U.S. with which he disagreed at the time of the cancelations, as there were when “W” was in office–a time when Elvis enjoyed a profitable run of tours and music sales.  It almost sounds as if there is something more insidious at work.  Could it be that he is not a fan of Jews?

Well, to answer that question, let’s take a gander at his similarly generous and not narrow views of another group of us.  History has revealed that Elvis does not have the kindest views of black folks, either.  And if we keep in mind that bigots generally do not limit their dark feelings to any one particular ethnic group, but generously inflict their hatred against several groups they view to be despicable,  the answer suggests itself.

Even if you buy into the current and popular wave of anti-Israelism, there are plenty of countries, including this one, whose governments have perpetrated hugely repugnant acts, on much greater scales, than Israel ever arguably has or will.  But that hasn’t stopped Elvis, or any of the other acts for which I used to have respect (Pixies, Gorillaz) from playing in those countries.

So in the end, Elvis is a lot like fans of tort “reform.”  He says one thing, and does another.  He is as much of a hypocrite as “news” man John Stossel, who publicly rants against tort “reform” and insults people low enough to become plaintiffs in lawsuits.  But Mr. Stossel became a plaintiff himself, soon after his obnoxious questioning of a pro wrestler got him bitch-slapped on video. And the aftermath was not pretty, as Eric Turkewitz showed in his sharp take on Stossel.

Oct 13 2010

The Medical Malpractice Insurance Industry-A Study in Stupidity

Aon Risk Solutions reports that costs stemming from medical malpractice claims will rise. But you have to wonder why it is practically alone in the wilderness performing this Chicken Little play, while most other national insurers have acknowledged that such costs are not only down, but continue to decrease. Even in New York, there was no increase in premiums for two years, followed by this year’s 5% increase (see earlier post here). Pennsylvania insurers are seeing only drops in costs. Could it be that Aon will profit from the increased premiums it will likely be charging doctors and hospitals?

Meanwhile, it’s fascinating how little coverage has been given by the medical/insurance industry press to the early resolution of medical malpractice cases facilitated by New York’s own Judge Douglas McKeon, as part of President Obama’s Pilot Program addressing healthcare costs.  This is the only example I have seen, despite the fact that, as the article acknowledges, the program saves hospitals millions of dollars.  Could it be that it is essential to Judge McKeon’s process that hospitals acknowledge their mistakes early on, placing the liability insurers’ bean counters into a long-term and uncomfortable cringe state?

And yet, when hospitals are forthright at the beginning of the adversarial process, and engage in meaningful settlement negotiations, they save their insurers the cost of months of billable hours by defense lawyers doing little more than delaying and obfuscating so that they don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg, that is, the lawsuit brought by the plaintiff.  As long as the suit is alive, they can keep billing the insurance company to “defend” it.

The smart insurance company sees the value in early resolution based on frank discussions from the outset.  The remaining insurance companies, who are unfortunately in the majority, roar for tort “reform.”  And apparently unbeknownst to them, they do so to their own detriment.

Oct 10 2010

Lojack For Surgeons, and Happy Medical Liability Executives

Florida’s medical malpractice liability insurers have been profiting for the past 6 years. New liability companies apparently can’t wait to write medical malpractice “products” there.  Here is the News Press’s take on how robust Florida’s market for medical liability insurance has become.


And as Alan Belsky points out in in his firm’s blawg, Maryland Malpractice Lawyer, this comfort level for the insurance companies is not confined to Florida. In Pennsylvania, a physician-supported pool saw a 61% decline in claims, and there has been an exponential rise in liability insurers wanting to do business there.

Why do I point this out?  Because unfortunately, the AMA,insurance industry lobbyists,  and  politicians across this country, are continuing their urgent calls for tort “reform,” claiming that doctors are fleeing, or hanging it up altogether, due to the medical malpractice “crisis.”  But if that were true, who are the profitable medical liability companies profiting from?  And why are more of them opening up shop?  That’s right.  There are plenty of doctors around, and they all have to buy insurance.


And in medical-legal news, RF (radio frequency) tags are proving to be an excellent tool in the effort to decrease the leaving behind of surgical sponges in patients following surgery, according to OutpatientSurgery.  The RF tags embedded in the sponges  work like the anti-theft tags used in retail stores, and nurses need only pass an RF detection wand over patients to discover what the sponge count failed to account for.  Current studies claim there are also no false positives or negatives.  Lojack has arrived in the OR, and we are better off for it.

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