The American jury is at the heart of the justice system.  The right to a jury trial is a constitutional right.  But the GOP in Tennesse want to limit the amount a jury may award in cases involving the abuse and neglect of America’s most vulnerable citizens.  Arbitrary caps on damages do not work.  If they want to prevent lawsuits, they should require better care including increasing staffing and training.  Advocates for the elderly told a special committee studying the effects of litigation on the nursing home industry that better care would prevent lawsuits.

The main discussion at the committe meeting was on whether caps should be placed on damages in lawsuits against nursing homes. Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey has made malpractice caps for nursing homes part of his legislative agenda for the year. The Republican said limiting damages is necessary because he believes the industry is being targeted by lawyers.

But Daniel Clayton, president of the Tennessee Association of Justice, told the committee that the focus should be on improvement of care rather than capping damages. "If care is good, lawsuits will go down," Clayton said. "If care is bad, lawsuits will go up." Last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a report that ranked Tennessee’s nursing homes worst in the nation and gave 30 percent of them the worst rating possible.  Why would you provide immunity to an industry that is hurting your voters and constituents?

The ratings are based on state inspections, staffing levels and quality measures, such as the percentage of residents with pressure sores, urinary tract infections and declining mobility. Each nursing home was given an overall score of one to five stars, with five stars being the best. The ratings are based on as much as three years of data, ending in November 2008.

Only Louisiana and Georgia ranked lower than Tennessee in the report, which evaluated 16,000 nursing homes nationwide.

Patrick Willard, AARP Tennessee’s advocacy director, said his group is studying litigation of nursing homes and preliminary results show the state ranks below the national level when it comes to staffing at nursing homes. "If your staffing level is below the national level, you’re more than likely to be sued," he said.

Committee member Charles Curtiss agreed. The Sparta Democrat said his mother has been in two nursing homes, and he noticed their staffing was not up to standard. "I’m not for saying we’re going to cap liability, and then let the service be exactly as it is today," Curtiss said. "If they’re going to give the operators a break, then certainly we’ve got to get something for those people who are in the nursing homes, and that would have to be better care."

Rep. Henry Fincher said he’s against capping damages, and shows his disdain for the idea in calling it "the kill old people act." "I don’t think that limiting liability is the way to make sure that people are treated better," said the Cookeville Democrat.

"If you take away people’s chance to recover damages for wrong things done to them, you’re protecting the wrongdoer. It turns the whole idea of responsibility on its head."

Thanks to Stark & Stark’sNursing Home Law blog for posting an article from Lawyers USA about the hurdles that Plaintiffs face if they want to sue a nursing home.  I know you’ve heard us say it before, but nursing home companies make it harder and harder to get to court, and once there, they make it harder and harder to collect any judgment you might get against the nursing home.

Let me be fair, Mom and Pop nursing homes don’t have the same corporate structures typically as the national chains do, but they still use arbitration clauses in order to avoid a jury trial, so they have their own ways of avoiding litigation.

Whatever happened to providing good, consistent, quality care?  It seems to me that that would be the most effective way to avoid litigation.  I know it would be the preferred way to avoid litigation according to all residents and family members of residents of nursing homes.

 Anyway, the article talks about the corporate shell game that is currently all the rage for national nursing home chains, and how the companies set up a myriad of holding companies which profits are funneled through so that the nursing home itself has no money.

Couple that with failure to carry insurance, and the first thing that happens whenever a Plaintiff files suit is, the defense attorney says, well, there’s no money there.  That’s because a half a million dollars has been paid to the management company, or to a holding company that has no employees and provides no services.  A half million dollars that could be used to appropriately staff the facility in the first place. 

The full article can be accessed here, with quotes from some of the best nursing home lawyers in the country.  Its worth reading. 

JONATHAN D. GLATER wrote an article on the proganda and millions spent on trying to grant immunity to corporation who committ negligence to protect insurance company profits.  

Thomas J. Donohue, the head of the US Chamber of Commerce congratulated a group of executives, lobbyists and insurance lawyers to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform.  But it is still too early to declare an end to the so-called tort wars, a decades-old propaganda movement to protect coporations and the profits of the insurance companies.  Corporate interests have won several potent victories, but trial lawyers continue to try to undo legislation restricting litigation and are pursuing new strategies of their own.

In state courts, where most civil litigation plays out, the number of suits involving auto accidents, allegations of medical malpractice and the like fell steadily from 1995 to 2005, according to the National Center for State Courts. The Chamber of Commerce says the number of megaverdicts for more than $100 million dropped to 2 last year, from 27 in 2000.

The chief executive of the American Association for Justice, Jon Haber, is skeptical of the results of spending by the Chamber of Commerce and its members to hobble lawsuits. And he defends the new name of his organization as reflecting what it does, rather than who its members are.  “The chamber’s political portfolio looks a lot like the portfolio of many Wall Street banks these days — a large number of bad bets that did not pay off but cost their members an awful lot of money,” Mr. Haber said.

He can rattle off recent victories for trial lawyers including voters in Washington State, for example, last year approved a bill that allows people to collect triple damages if an insurer unreasonably denies a claim.

In Colorado, an initiative to limit lawyers’ fees was answered with a barrage of proposals that would limit executive compensation, cap real estate sales commissions and raise the maximum amount of damages payable as a result of shoddy construction, among other things. All the initiatives were eventually withdrawn.

At the federal level, trial lawyers are pushing for a law that would make it easier for consumers to sue instead of having to submit to binding arbitration, as many contracts — for credit cards, for example — now require. The trial lawyers are also trying to make it harder for defendants to keep legal proceedings secret. “There are a number of things that are very much pro-civil justice that are starting to work through Congress,” Mr. Haber said.

The fight to change tort laws has developed into a big business in itself, with plenty of people invested in keeping the battle going.   Officials at the Institute for Legal Reform, the chamber unit, would not specify how much it spends annually on media and publicity campaigns, except to say it’s in the millions. And many organizations, nationally and in the states, lobby on both sides.

But the chamber itself, which represents millions of businesses of all sizes, is the biggest spender on the lobbying. In 2006, it spent $72.7 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group that tracks money in politics.

Anti-consumer groups came up with a multipronged propaganda strategy, involving advertising aimed at voters picking judges and continued lobbying of lawmakers. This “demonstration project" was successful enough that the Institute for Legal Reform has expanded it over the years. At the same time, businesses have become more active in state supreme court judicial campaigns and, in the 2006 election cycle, gave twice as much as lawyers did, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

To help deliver a pro-business message, advocates have hit upon a ranking system. One list ranks “judicial hellholes,” as compiled by the American Tort Reform Association, and another identifies those states deemed by corporate general counsels to be most and least friendly to businesses. (That list comes from the Chamber of Commerce.)

In Mississippi, which received the worst ranking on the chamber’s list, advocates of limits on lawsuits made a special effort. In 2002 and 2004, state lawmakers passed legislation that, among other things, capped how much plaintiffs could recover in punitive damages and in noneconomic damages — compensation for pain and suffering, for example.

But Lance L. Stevens, a Mississippi lawyer and former president of the state’s association of trial lawyers, said that even after the changes to the tort laws, the state has moved up in the ranking by only a few spots. General counsels at big corporations are not critical of Mississippi because of its legal system, he said. “It is the corporate lawyers for the Fortune 500 companies expressing their general disgust for Mississippi and their mistaken belief that we are culturally retarded.”

Corporate executives say they want limits on noneconomic damages in order to reduce unpredictability in jury verdicts. But the caps hurt the very people who most need help — low-income people who sustain injuries, Mr. Stevens said. People who earn a lot of money can claim significant lost income as part of their injury. The unemployed, children, the elderly or anyone else with little earning potential stands to recover less for the same injury than someone in the work force.

 

This is a well-written editorial from the New England Journal of Medicine discussing why it is important to preserve people’s rights to bring tort actions. It is written by the editor of the NEJM himself.
http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/359/1/1?query=TOC

Volume 359:1-3 July 3, 2008 Number 1
Why Doctors Should Worry about Preemption
Gregory D. Curfman, M.D., Stephen Morrissey, Ph.D., and Jeffrey M. Drazen, M.D. 

A leading drug company may be poised to win a landmark legal victory next fall. If the drug manufacturer, Wyeth, prevails in a case soon to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court (Wyeth v. Levine),1 drug companies could effectively be immunized against state-level tort litigation if their products that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are later found to be defective.

A medical-device company won such a victory in April. In Riegel v. Medtronic,2 the Supreme Court determined that a product-liability lawsuit against Medtronic in a state court was preempted because the device had received FDA approval. Preemption is a legal doctrine based on the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which states that when federal and state laws are at odds, federal law takes precedence. Its application to state tort litigation is a radical extension of its original meaning.

Medtronic won its case because the 1976 law that grants the FDA authority to regulate medical devices contains a clause asserting that state requirements with regard to medical devices are preempted by federal requirements. Although the preemption clause is silent on common-law tort actions, the Supreme Court (with Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the Court) interpreted the preemption clause broadly to include such actions.

Unlike the law governing medical devices, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which provides the statutory framework for the regulation of drugs by the FDA, contains no such preemption clause. Thus, in Wyeth v. Levine — which concerns a patient who lost her arm after an injection of Wyeth’s antiemetic drug Phenergan — the Court will decide whether preemption of state tort litigation is implied by the law, even though it is not explicitly stated.

Previous administrations and the FDA considered tort litigation to be an important part of an overall regulatory framework for drugs and devices; product-liability litigation by consumers was believed to complement the FDA’s regulatory actions and enhance patient safety. Margaret Jane Porter, former chief counsel of the FDA, wrote, "FDA product approval and state tort liability usually operate independently, each providing a significant, yet distinct, layer of consumer protection."3 Persons who are harmed have the right to seek legal redress. Preemption would erase that right.

But in the past few years, the government’s views have shifted, and the FDA has reversed its position, now claiming that common-law tort actions are preempted. The FDA argues that tort liability stifles innovation in product development and delays the approval process, and that lay juries are incapable of making determinations about product safety. It has been argued, however, that Congress, not unelected appointees of a federal agency, has the power to decide whether preemption should apply.

Drug and device companies have chosen an inauspicious moment to attack the right of patients to seek redress. A series of pivotal reports on patient safety from the Institute of Medicine, as well as numerous articles in scholarly journals, has put the issue of patient safety in the national spotlight. Although frivolous lawsuits should not be condoned, product-liability litigation has unquestionably helped to remove unsafe products from the market and to prevent others from entering it. Through the process of legal discovery, litigation may also uncover information about drug toxicity that would otherwise not be known. Preemption will thus result in drugs and devices that are less safe and will thereby undermine a national effort to improve patient safety.

Owing in part to a lack of resources, approval of a new drug by the FDA is not a guarantee of its safety (see timeline).4 As the Institute of Medicine has reported, FDA approval is usually based on short-term efficacy studies, not long-term safety studies.5 Despite the diligent attention of the FDA, serious safety issues often come to light only after a drug has entered the market. The FDA, which — unlike most other federal agencies — has no subpoena power, knows only what manufacturers reveal.

Why should doctors be concerned about preemption? In stripping patients of their right to seek redress through due process of law, preemption of common-law tort actions is not only unjust but will also result in the reduced safety of drugs and medical devices for the American people. Preemption will undermine the confidence that doctors and patients have in the safety of drugs and devices. If injured patients are unable to seek legal redress from manufacturers of defective products, they may instead turn elsewhere.

In May, a Congressional hearing on preemption was held by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. As we stated in our testimony to the committee, to ensure the safety of medical devices, we urge Congress to act quickly to reverse the Riegel decision. Congressman Waxman and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), are poised to introduce legislation that would unambiguously eliminate the possibility of preemption of common-law tort actions for medical devices. And if the Supreme Court rules for preemption in Wyeth v. Levine, which we hope it will not, Congress should consider similar legislation for drugs. Such legislation is in the best interest of the health and safety of the American public.

Dr. Curfman is the executive editor, Dr. Morrissey the managing editor, and Dr. Drazen the editor-in-chief of the Journal.   An interactive timeline is available with the full text of this article at www.nejm.org.

References

1. Wyeth v. Levine, cert. granted, 128 S. Ct. 1118 (2008).
2.  Riegel v. Medtronic, 128 S. Ct. 999 (2008).
3..Porter MJ. The Lohr decision: FDA perspective and position. Food Drug Law J 1997;52:7-11. [ISI][Medline]
4.  Kessler DA, Vladeck DC. A critical examination of the FDA’s efforts to preempt failure-to-warn claims. Georgetown Law J 2008;96(2). (Accessed June 13, 2008, at  http://lsr.nellco.org/georgetown/ois/papers/2/.)
5. Baciu A, Stratton K, Burke SP, eds. The future of drug safety: promoting and protecting the health of the public. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2007.

John Nichols wrote a great article for The South Carolina Lawyer Bulletin for Spring 2008 discussing the admissibility of expert’s opinions pursuant to Rule 702, and the lack of necessity for South Carolina to adopt the federal standard described as Daubert for the infamous 1993 decision Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 526 U.S. 579 (1993).  Daubert was intended to make expert testimony more admissible but Defendants and sympathetic Courts have made it more difficult and more costly to admit qualified expert opinions.  Mr. Nichols explains why the change is unnecessary and uncovers the disingenous arguments for adopting the change.  Below are excerpts from the article.

And what of Copernicus and Bruno?

“How do you know what you know?” That question was posed by Circuit Judge Roger Young in a November 2003 article he authored that was published in the South Carolina Bar’s magazine, The South Carolina Lawyer. Judge Young’s article has become somewhat of a centerpiece for the current efforts by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce’s front group, the misnamed “Civil Justice Coalition,” in its efforts to have our General Assembly enter into the role of rule-maker by adopting a statute that would conflict with Rules 701 through 703 of the South Carolina Rules of Evidence. Of course, the role of making rules governing procedure and evidence in our judicial system is traditionally, and generally constitutionally, delegated to the Supreme Court. But the current effort, known as Senate Bill 687, attempts to usurp that authority in favor of a statutory revision of these rules of evidence.

In his article, Judge Young summed up his view of one means of determining reliability for scientific expert testimony by asking the expert the simple question: “How do you know what you know?” Judge Young pointed out that to assist the judges in interpreting the expert’s response to that question, the state and federal Supreme Courts have provided broad starting points, founded in evidence Rule 702. South Carolina’s version, which was adopted in 1995, was identical to the federal version until Congress amended the federal rule in 2000, which Judge Young points out was altered “to reflect the changes brought about by Daubert, although it does not enumerate the Daubert factors in the amendment.”

There’s the first rub: The United States Congress felt that Daubert and its progeny, particularly Kumho Tire, somehow strayed from the plain language of Rule 702, so much so that Congress felt the need to amend the Rule “to reflect the changes” in the Rule brought about by the United States Supreme Court in interpreting Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. The Advisory Committee Notes to the 2000 Amendments say as much.

Turning to the current effort by the Chamber, in a hearing before a Senate subcommittee considering S. 687, advocates for the proposal claimed the current rules regarding admissibility of expert witness evidence in South Carolina resulted in a “lack of predictability” in our judicial system and that such unpredictability caused businesses to turn elsewhere when looking to locate. Advocates presented nothing other than their apocryphal stories, and the reason is clear: Businesses are simply not avoiding South Carolina because there is some perception that because South Carolina is not a “Daubert state,” our court system is unpredictable when it comes to the admission of expert evidence.

For example, on February 20, 2008, which ironically was the same day as a hearing before the Senate subcommittee, The State newspaper ran a front page article entitled “Massive trade center planned,” with the subtitle “Company could invest $100 million in first phase of I-26 project.” The article indicated an investment group known as World Trade City Orangeburg, LLC, which has ties to China and the United States, plans to purchase 1,200 acres of farmland near Bowman, South Carolina, for an international trade center that could employ more than 1,000 people. The group intends to eventually buy 5,000 acres, and its trade center will be near a 1,300-acre warehouse complex planned by a Dubai company, Jafza International, which bought land along I-95 near Santee for a project that could lead to construction of over $700 million in buildings and employment of 5,500 people by 2015. These international companies are investing significant sums into the Orangeburg economy.

Interestingly, on its website the South Carolina Commerce Department makes the following claim: “South Carolina is one of the most business-friendly states in the nation and continues to be the destination for companies to locate and expand.” The Department provides a “2006 Activity Report,” which brags about how “business friendly” South Carolina is; claims 14,420 new jobs were created in 2006; and lists “Top Ten Job Creations” during the year, all of which were investments in the State by out-of-state businesses.

In 2006, the “Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council” ranked South Carolina 11th among entrepreneur-friendly states, ahead of neighboring states Tennessee (13th), Georgia (25th) and North Carolina (40th). So the claims that there is no predictability in our rules of evidence and that this lack of predictability is scaring off business is completely untrue and as such cannot serve as a factual basis for just changing the established and familiar rules of evidence in a way deliberately designed to hurt the citizens, consumers, and small business people in favor of large out-of-state corporations.

Advocates for the rules changes in S. 687 often claim that “33 States have adopted Daubert,” but this is not true—even basic legal research belies this claim.  In fact, however, only 10 states currently adopt Daubert and Kumho Tire in their entirety, and a majority of States addressing the issue either limit its application or reject it outright like South Carolina’s current evidentiary rules.

The proponents of changing the rules also claim that other states have adopted legislation similar to S. 687, and thus South Carolina needs the statute in order to compete for business opportunities and create jobs. The truth is that only one other state has adopted anything like S. 687, and that legislation has not withstood a challenge on its constitutionality yet. Two other States have incorporated Daubert into their law by statute, but these are far from the broad reaching measures pushed by the Chamber of Commerce in South Carolina.

It is telling that the only proponent of S. 687 is the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and its front group, “Coalition for Justice.” Groups that have testified and spoken openly in opposition to changing rules of evidence by statute include the South Carolina Attorney General, the South Carolina solicitors, consumer groups, small business groups and the courts. The Chamber simply has not made the case for change. Moreover, the General Assembly should consider the enormous financial impact on small business, consumers, and our increasingly burdened court system these changes would impose. The judges in our court system, who ironically we ask to rule on matters of life and death, are now being accused by the Chamber of Commerce of not knowing how to adequately deal with expert witness evidence in South Carolina after doing so for hundreds of years; those judges should be asked what they think of this ill-advised power grab by big business, and the rules changes’ costs and consequences.

Senate Bill 687 is a bad idea being promoted by the self-serving interests of large corporations intent on making access to justice and fairness under the law hollow promises. It is our hope that the facts will emerge through the fog of hyperbole and misinformation driving this effort to favor out-of-state corporations over the people of this state.

Addendum:  We would like to thank John nichols for allowing us to use his article. Nobody knows more about South Carolina law, or writes better than John Nichols.

The Atlanta Journal constitution wrote a story about a Georgia Judge finding tort reform caps to be unconstitutional.  The cap on monetary awards in a medical malpractice case was found to be unconstitutional.

Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington wrote in an order that the legislative cap of $350,000 for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering was unconstitutional because it gave special protections to the medical profession. This meant people injured by doctors had less protection than those injured by others.

"It is absurd to say that if you get injured by a product that the jury can decide your noneconomic damages, but if you get injured by medical malpractice, it can’t," said Trent Speckhals, one of the lawyers for Cheon Park, the plaintiff in the case.

The legislature approved the $350,000 cap in 2005 as part of a civil-justice tort reform law over the opposition of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and consumer groups.   In 2006, the Georgia Supreme Court stuck down another provision of tort reform when it ruled that defendants couldn’t decide in which county their medical-malpractice case was tried.

In his written opinion, Arrington complained that limiting the caps meant that in many cases, large jury awards would be issued only to wealthy people who could point to the loss of large incomes.

"The statute effectively puts substantial limitations on the rights of the poor and middle class to recovery while leaving the right to virtually unlimited recoveries unimpeded for the wealthy," Arrington said. "The disabled manager of a hedge fund, a corporate CEO, an entertainer or such other person whose income is in the tens of millions of dollars has a claim under Georgia law that would dwarf the amount awarded in any case for pain and suffering."

Here is an article showing how profitable the nursing home industry actually is while the insurance companies are requesting immunity and protection from their neglect and abuse.  

Robust Financial Standing Of California Nursing Homes Observed Amid Slump In Quality Care
Vittorio Hernandez – AHN News Writer

A study released Tuesday reported growing profitability of the nursing home industry, but declining health care quality.

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco found out that two years after the state passed legislation increasing reimbursements from Medi-Cal, average nursing home income from the state’s healthcare program went up to $152 from $124 daily.

The same study discovered 16 percent of nursing homes in the state failed to measure up to California’s minimum staffing benchmarks. A minimal rise in average salary for nursing assistants by less than one dollar was not sufficient to cover inflation rate increases. Even higher-paid nurses had a fast turnover rate, with 7 in 10 resigning from their jobs in 2006.

But average spending on direct patient care went down by 3.6 percent, while complaints of patient mistreatment proven went up by 36 percent.  Charlene Harrington, the lead author of the study, wrote as her comment, quoted by the Los Angeles Times, "They got so much money, they should have been able to do something."

See also the L.A. Times article on this study which added the following:

California nursing homes bolstered their bottom lines with $590 million that state lawmakers provided them to better tend to the poor, while patient care declined by several key measures such as turnover among nurses increased slightly, with nearly 7 in 10 leaving their jobs that year, the amount nursing homes spent on direct patient care actually decreased by 3.6%, and substantiated complaints of patient mistreatment increased by 38%. State and federal regulators cited homes for 6% more violations.  Said Michael Connors of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a patient watchdog group, "to a great degree, no one knows where the money went and how it was used. What’s clear is it hasn’t been used for beneficial effects on residents, which is appalling."

There is a great editorial by Tamara Hill in the Tennessean.  Here it is in its entirety.

Lawsuits are the only way some nursing homes will provide the services they’re supposed to offer

By TAMARA L. HILL   Tennessee Voices

In response to a letter to the editor by Debra Fish ("Nursing homes are pot of gold to lawyers," March 5):

Taxpayer money does not line the pockets of attorneys who sue nursing homes for providing negligent care. If the facility is found to be negligent because a civil justice attorney brings its behavior to the attention of the courts and jury system and the facility pays a judgment or settlement, Medicaid and/or Medicare, whichever paid for the negligent care, is reimbursed … meaning the taxpayers are reimbursed when a facility is found negligent, not that the taxpayers’ burden is increased.

It has also been suggested that lawyers "pile on huge sums of money that bankrupt nursing homes and keep money from being spent on improving care for the residents" on top of judgments allowed by judges and juries. This simply is not true. A lawyer cannot force the nursing home to pay more than the judgment or settlement amount.

As a former nursing-home nurse working in administration, there were multiple instances in which I had to beg corporate for things needed to provide basic patient care … soap, shampoo, gloves, bandages, dressings, towels, sheets, equipment and, of course, the staff to actually provide the care. I was often told that it wasn’t in the budget.

Sometimes the ONLY way I could get what I needed for the residents was to say "OK, but if I can’t get what I need for my staff to take care of them, then you are just buying a lawsuit." Then, suddenly, someone "found" money in the budget to get the things the patient needed. If there were caps, then it would become a cost-benefit risk analysis, weighing a known cost (about 75 percent of the cap) and the savings (benefit) by not providing the staff, supplies and care vs. the risk that someone would take the lawsuit with caps in place.

National HealthCare Corp. is using some of its money in two ways: One is to give bonuses to its corporate employees. Another is to pay lobbyists to convince your state legislators that it needs "liability reform" so that it can’t be held responsible for its negligence.

The proposed bill seeks to put a cap on so-called non-economic damages suffered by nursing-home residents, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement and death. It also seeks to make the cases much more expensive to pursue and defend by placing nursing homes under the Medical Malpractice Act.

Finally, the bill seeks to give nursing homes the ultimate immunity by forcing residents to sign away their right to access to the courts as a condition of admission. How does this protect patients? I submit to you that it does not. It protects nursing-home profits.

——————————————————————————–

Insurance companies, the Chamber of Commerce, and the American Medical Association attempt to advance tort reform (i.e immunity for their members) by making up frivolous cases and trying to convince juries that doctors are fleeing states without caps on damages for victims of negligence and abuse.

However, new information based on the AMA’s own data on the number of physicians practicing in the states proves that these disingenous Chicken Littles are flat wrong.  Some key findings include:

1)  The number of doctors is increasing across the country. There were 921,904 physicians in the U.S. in 2006, nearly 20,000 more than in 2005.  Despite the alleged "physician flight" crisis, the number of physicians rose in every state except Louisiana, which had a total decrease of seven doctors (mostly related to the economic devastation of Hurricane Katrina).

2)  The numbe rof doctors is increasing faster than the population growth. There were 303 physicians per 100,000 people in 2006, an all-time high nationwide.

3)  The numbe rof physicians per 100,000 resdients is much higher in states without caps on damages (311 vs. 280).  Since 2000, the physician-to-population ratio in states without caps has increased twice as much as in states with caps.

Do not be fooled by the propaganda of the insurance companies and for profit health care providers.  They are interested in what is best for them and their bottom lines and not what is best for the victims of their malpratice.

The Houston Chronicle has an article about the amount of money and influence that the nursing home lobbysit have in creating legislation to protect their industry.   The American Health Care Association spent about $1.7 million lobbying the government last year on a variety of bills affecting health care.  The AHCA, which represents nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, spent $860,000 in the first half of 2007 and $881,000 in the second half.  The organization also paid Patton Boggs LLP $160,000 in the second half to lobby the government.   The AHCA lobbied on a range of legislation including laws affecting Medicare and Medicaid, caps on damages, immunity for neglect and abuse, and compelling arbitration in nursing home cases.