In Britain, the only news stories bigger than Brexit itself are the stories of regret and remorse now felt by millions of confused residents who voted to leave the EU. Even those very people responsible for disseminating myths and fear-mongering are now expressing “buyers remorse” and admitting they made a big mistake. But as John Oliver put it last night, “there are no f------ do-overs."
One of biggest myths centered around the nation’s financially-strapped National Health Service, which has provided universal health care to the nation since World War II. Considered “one of the greatest achievements in history,” NHS has been the subject of lots of discussion lately about ways to save it. Thanks to conservatives (including many involved in the “leave” effort), NHS recently has, “endur[ed] the sharpest and most prolonged spending squeeze in its history.” The “leave” folks hypocritically exploited public anxiety over the NHS and health care availability, making one of their central campaign slogans: “Let’s give our NHS the £350 the EU takes every week. Vote leave, take control.”
The whole thing was a lie, of course. It is now “clear that the £350 million reclaimed from the EU would not in fact be spent on the National Health Service. Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party and a member of the European Parliament, and other leading members of the Leave campaign backtracked on the promise over the weekend, the Metro reported, as it became apparent that there was no official plan for Brexit.”
Meanwhile across the pond, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan released his anti-Obamacare health care policy “plan” last week, which the Washington Post called “flimsy” but that’s putting it nicely. This plan would be “hard on the poor, old and sick,” and isn’t that the last thing anyone should be doing with any nation’s health care policy?
Buried in this plan (p. 18) are a bunch of proposals that would strip injured patients of their legal rights to go to court when they’ve been negligently harmed. He says Congress needs to enact such proposals because current state laws have:
imperiled patient access and imposed tremendous costs on our nation. The current system has forced doctors out of practicing in certain specialties; it has caused trauma centers to close; and it has forced pregnant women to drive hours to find an obstetrician.
To support such fear-mongering, he footnotes a U.S. General Accounting Office report that is over a decade old and which, together with a second report, actually found the opposite to be true. Indeed, the GAO found the kind of claims made by Speaker Ryan to be “inaccurate” and “not substantiated,” and that to the extent there are a few access problems, many other explanations could be established "unrelated to malpractice," that problems "did not widely affect access to health care," and/or “involved relatively few physicians.”
It gets worse. That report was written over a decade ago in the midst of the last “hard” insurance market, when rates were skyrocketing and doctors were being price-gouged. Today's medical malpractice insurance market is completely different. Rates are - and have been for a decade – extraordinarily low. Just today, Forbes published a column by health care expert Bruce Japsen, titled, “Sorry, Paul Ryan: Obamacare's Not Hurting Doctors But Making Them Rich.” Among his points: Medical malpractice insurers also say doctors are getting some of their best deals in years and "medical malpractice premiums aren’t rising these days and in some cases doctors are getting their best deals in years."
Meanwhile, claims are the lowest in history even according to “tort reform” proponent Richard Anderson, CEO of med mal insurer, the Doctors Company. This is true even though medical errors are the third leading cause of death. (You can find back up for those quotes and statistics in the Center for Justice & Democracy’s Medical Malpractice Briefing Book.)
To understand the consequences of myths and fear-mongering around these issues, remember the story of the late Frank Cornelius. As an Indiana insurance lobbyist, Frank helped secure passage of a hard cap on compensation for Indiana patients injured by medical malpractice. But he later became a victim of this very law after he himself was severely injured by medical malpractice. Before he died, Frank wrote an article called “Crushed by my own reform,” saying he “rue[s] that accomplishment.”