Saturday, July 23, 2005

Framing the lawyers

From Ezra:

The total cost of malpractice is thus 6.5 billion -- 0.46% of health care costs, or less than one half of one percent. They're just not a significant factor in rising health prices

Ezra's guestblogger Nick Beaudrot has more on the issue.

I can see two motivations for insurance companies' attacks on public protection lawyers. First, there's the obvious fact that while lawsuits may not significantly raise health care costs, they're a cost that insurance companies have to deal with, and which they want to reduce as much as possible.

This probably isn't the biggest way that attacking trial lawyers helps the insurance industry, though. Many good proposals for health care reform would hit the insurance industry very hard. Unlike malpractice lawsuits, the huge load of redundant bureaucracy imposed by private insurers really is one of the major factors in driving up health care costs today. If people paid attention to what insurance corporations have done, there would be a lot more support for changes in the health care system that could really hurt the insurers. By framing the lawyers for their own misdeeds, the insurers deflect attention from the real problem.

3 comments:

Nick Beaudrot said...

I'm a big fan of using the frame "insurance company bureaucrat", as Kerry tried to do on the campaign trail.

Of course, at the same time he was working on Iraq, trying to say something about education, trying to say something about jobs, trying to say something about trade, trying to say something about North Korea ... anyhow, it just sort of got drowned out. But in a more focus campaign; fix iraq, fix the insurance company bureaucracy, fix Social Security with a sledgehammer rather than a screwdriver, etc ... it could be really effective

Rousseau said...

The idea that we should agree with Clinton and give in and claim to try to fix malpractice is really troubling. I wish I could fathom what to do.

Lawyers are slimy. They fund Democrats. They're responsible for the SCOTUS being evil, Roe v Wade, blah blah. The "malpractice" meme is a perfect storm of trying to dodge healthcare reform, blaming everything on (liberal) lawyers, and knowing nothing will get done (because with such a small problem, nothing CAN get done. If they're willing to blame lawyers when they're 0.46% of healthcare costs, they'll continue blaming when they're 0.1% of healthcare costs).

Conservative framing lawyers for everything that's wrong in this country a) needs to be countered, but b) won't be countered easily. We shouldn't roll over and let the lawyers take the punch, because that punch will still hurt us, and we're not going to get any healthcare reform that way either.

Julian Elson said...

I think that there are three alternatives. Presenting them clearly would, I think, bolster support for the current system.

A: The traditional Anglo-Saxon common law system, in which people are held responsible for actions which harm people.

B: The European-style regulatory state, in which the government decides what people are allowed to do, so that the government bans certain practices believed to harm people.

C: No institutional enforcement of accountability. People get away with harming people without being called to account.

There may be other alternatives, but if so, I don't know what they are.

Perhaps I am naïve, but I think that if presented with the alternatives of Eurosocialism or robber barony, most of us will stick with our current system of civil law.