Back in May, we wrote (what we thought was) a satirical post about (what we thought was) a “boo-boo” by the head of the Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA) at an industry webinar. Most of the webinar consisted of people blabbing on and on about obscure medical malpractice insurance issues, and I was just thinking “this is an hour I won't get back” when BAM! Brian K. Atchinson, President and CEO of PIAA, spoke and said something that I actually thought I’d misheard. He announced that PIAA helped write the Draconian anti-patient medical malpractice bill that had just passed the U.S. House Judiciary Committee without a single hearing. Woops!
My next thought was, “someone’s gonna get fired over that one!” Then, my next thought was, “wait until PopTort readers here about this!” Ergo, our satirical post in the form of a (fake) “confidential memo” from Mr. Atchinson, admitting this slip-up in the context of his struggles with “impulse control” over the years. He (fake) mused, “now we have a U.S. President with even less impulse control than we have. With a guy like that leading the way, what are we supposed to do?"
But I did not expect what came next. PIAA's lobbyist confirmed it all – to the Washington Post! This is not an everyday impulse control problem. This is some kind of Scaramucci disease!
It's all in this must-read article, “In Trump era, lobbyists boldly take credit for writing a bill to protect their industry.” There are so many jaw-dropping tid-bits I just had to list a few, like:
It isn’t unusual for industry stakeholders to draft legislation. But in this case, lobbyists were able to rapidly shepherd their bill to House passage with minimal input from the public or even members of Congress. Lobbyists then crowed about the achievement, boasting that the House-passed measure was nearly identical to one they provided to the House Judiciary Committee and that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced on Feb. 24.
“There wasn’t a dramatic change in how we wrote it,” said Mike Stinson, a lobbyist for the Physician Insurers Association of America. But, he added, “there are always some tweaks.”…
Norman J. Ornstein, a nonpartisan ethics scholar with the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said Republican lawmakers are becoming increasingly willing to act with little or no public debate. At the same time, Ornstein said, lobbyists are becoming increasingly vocal about claiming credit for their political victories. “This is a reflection of the new Trump, in-your-face era,” said Ornstein, who has written numerous books on Congress.…
“Large business groups are writing these bills,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). “This has got to stop.” King, the lead sponsor of the medical malpractice bill, acknowledged that the industry provided a draft of the bill and helped craft the final version. …
Stinson, the lobbyist for the Physician Insurers Association of America, a trade association for medical malpractice insurers, said the coalition presented the measure to the House Judiciary Committee shortly after Trump’s inauguration. Weeks later, King introduced his bill. Just four days later, on Feb. 28, the Judiciary Committee passed the measure. And on June 28, the measure passed the House 218 to 210, with 19 Republicans and 191 Democrats voting no.
In the days and weeks before the House vote, at least three members of the coalition took public credit for their role in drafting the legislation. On May 11, Brian Atchinson, chief executive of the group Stinson represents, said in a webinar that the bill was something his team had “in fact, helped Hill staff draft.”
And in a June 23 newsletter to members, the Doctors Company — the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer — said its group and other members of the coalition “worked to draft new federal medical liability legislation.”
Stanley Brand, a Washington-based lobbyist who served as general counsel to longtime Democratic House speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr., said such public pronouncements by lobbyists are relatively new. “Look, when I worked for Tip O’Neill, the definition of a good lobbyist was like a German U-boat — they only come up at night for air,” Brand said. “They didn’t speak publicly about the role they played in a bill.”
Members of the medical malpractice coalition defended their actions. “I don’t think any of us would want to live in a society where all laws are imposed by regulators, a judge, a congress, a president,” said Richard E. Anderson, chairman and chief executive of the Doctors Company.
In other words, people vote, elect and pay public officials so, what, they can take cooking classes or read WebMD all day while paid lobbyists write the laws? I mean, why have democratic elections? (Oh yeah I forgot, it's Trump-time.)