George Orwell Comes to Washington: The "Protect Patients Now" Lobbying Group
If you wanted to lobby for a law that wipes out the rights of patients to hold hospitals, drug manufacturers and doctors accountable when they hurt people by carelessness and wrongful conduct, what would you call your group?
"Protect Patients Now!" It has a nice ring, doesn't it?
However, the people behind this campaign, which was launched in Washington to advocate for the H.R. 5 "tort reform" bill in Congress, are anything but patient advocates.
The campaign comes from a group called the Health Coalition on Liability and Access. A list of the coalition's members can be found on its website, and includes:
* Major medical malpractice insurance carriers (Pro Assurance, The Doctors' Company, Medical Protective);
* Doctors' lobbying organizations, especially those who have been active in political efforts to curb lawsuits (the AMA, plus neurosurgeons' and orthopedic surgeons' societies and others);
* Long-time "players" in the legal "reform" space, particularly the American Tort Reform Association, which got much of its seed money from the tobacco industry.
The coalition calls itself a "grassroots advocacy organization" but conspicuously absent from its membership are any of the consumer groups — Consumers Union and Public Citizen, to name two — who have been pushing the medical industry to make health care safer (and thereby solve its lawsuit problem).
H.R. 5 was sent to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives this week by a party line vote of the House Judiciary Committee. The bill gives special breaks in the form of damage "caps" and other special treatment not only to all physicians, nurses and other individual caregivers, but also to drug manufacturers, nursing homes and hospitals.
The idea of H.R. 5 is that by making the medical industry less legally accountable for the harms it causes, Congress will free up the industry to become safer and provide cheaper care to more Americans.
I did not make that up.
The American Association for Justice (of which I am a member) has an online petition for concerned consumers to send a message to their Member of Congress about this bill.