Back in 1994, the television show TV Nation featured a hilarious segment called “Pets on Prozac,” about pets with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) like Willie the dog, who was so fixated on his log that he really couldn’t function as a regular dog. There were also dogs who could not stop chasing their tails until, in some cases, they actually bit ‘em off. Ouch! These poor animals needed help and since electroconvulsive therapy was probably not an option, they tried the next best thing - Prozac. Now what’s this have to do with us?
Well, I’m thinking that some folks in the U.S. House of Representatives may want to take a look at this TV piece (see below, although not the best quality but you get the idea), and then get some help for their obsession with H.R. 5, the anti-patient medical malpractice/drug/nursing home bill, which we’ve covered many times (like here, here). Let’s review. First, the House assigned the bill to two committees. Each one had a hearing. Each committee then marked up the bill and sent it to the House floor. Then, the House passed the bill on a largely partisan vote. Then, the House leadership brought the bill back to both committees - again. And then one committee marked it up - again. Then the other committee marked it up - again. And now, as part of a new budget package, it’s probably going to hit the House floor - again. As Willie’s owner said, “Willie has to look at his log, stay with his log, he doesn’t see the big picture.” This sounds awfully like the U.S. House of Representatives and its relationship to H.R. 5.
This latest round of looking at the bill, staying with the bill, passing the bill, etc., is because some members of Congress think stripping injured patients’ of their legal rights (so that Medicaid and Medicare must pay for their care instead), will save taxpayers money. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating shoving Prozac down anyone’s throat to stop nonsensical thinking like this. There have been enough problems with that drug. But short of pushing pills, there actually is a solution to this obsession, and all it takes is reading the latest publication by the insurance firm A.M. Best, Looking for money? Go no further than the astonishing profits of the medical malpractice insurance industry. Here’s what Best says:
The medical professional liability insurance (MPLI) sector continues to stand out among insurance sectors for its ability to garner profits and generate returns far in excess of the composite averages of its property/casualty peers, according to a recently released A.M. Best Co. special report.
The report, "Medical Professional Liability Outperforms, But Is This Sustainable?" states that the MPLI sector in 2011 posted underwriting and operating results that outpaced the U.S. property/casualty industry composite.
In fact, for years med mal insurers have been doing better than the property/ casualty insurance industry as a whole, which itself has been remarkably profitable. (See this report for more.) Looking for money? Take it out of the pockets of these profiteering medical malpractice insurance firms.
States should do the same. And that includes state lawmakers who think it might be a great idea to save money by having hospital risk managers approach unrepresented injured patients (or families of those killed) with low-ball offers. See our discussion of the Boston proposal here and an op ed about it, which appeared in the Boston Globe. And there's an even worse proposal on the table in New Hampshire.
So to all you lawmakers out there: Stop trying to solve deficit problems on the backs of injured patients and look to the insurance industry instead. You'll make everyone much happier – and without pills!