Let’s just say, Ben Nelson was never my favorite U.S. Senator. While Nebraska’s insurance commissioner in the 1970s, he supported one of the cruelest medical malpractice compensation caps in the nation, – the impact of which was highlighted in the HBO documentary film, Hot Coffee. One thing I’ll say for him, though. He never supported federal caps. Don’t get him wrong, he likes caps alright. He just felt that states did a better job wiping out patients’ legal rights, making sure taxpayers pick up the tab when negligent hospitals and doctors maim people.
If nothing else, Ben Nelson is consistent. This would be unlike others in Congress who still want to impose Draconian “caps” on all of us. Check out the new Republican Study Committee proposal to repeal Obamacare (because it’s a federal takeover of state healthcare) while supporting a national $250,000 cap on non-economic damages (because it’s a federal takeover of state medical malpractice laws). Apparently, consistency is not the point.
According to Bloomberg, Ben Nelson showed up at their New York offices the other day for an interview. This consistent states’-rights guy is now head of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and he made clear that he doesn’t want Congress regulating the insurance industry. Well, yeah, I have to say, not this Congress. Nelson’s reasons were “Jeffersonian.” Mine are less philosophical. If you care about the lives of everyday people, the current U.S. House of Representatives is not the body you want in control. Sad but true.
Of course, as Bloomberg points out,
The federal role in insurance regulation is already expanding under the Dodd-Frank law. The Federal Reserve will oversee insurers that are deemed systemically important by the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which was created by Dodd-Frank to prevent another financial crisis. U.S. insurers are primarily overseen by state regulators.
But here’s another issue. As NAIC head, he should be held fully responsible for the NAIC’s “Affordable Care Act Medical Professional Liability (C) Working Group,” which, from what we can tell, is going to result in an idiotic (not to mention biased) analysis of Obamacare’s impact on the med mal insurance market. This working group has no consumer representation. It’s hearing almost entirely from insurance industry representatives, like the Physicians Insurance Association of America, which is running around Congress and elsewhere saying things like the law is going to stop doctors from doing all the “defensive medicine” tests that their doctors want to do. So claims will go up. In other words, errors will go up. In other words, what they call “defensive” medicine is actually good medicine that prevents errors.
But the real irony is that the litigation position of some liability insurers is the exact opposite of this. Some of them are now trying to get out of paying claims, claiming that Obamacare (including the tax-payer assisted parts) should pay for the injuries that their clients cause. Complaining about the law for supposedly increasing claims, while trying profit from the law by not paying claims.
Apparently, consistency is not the point.