Archive for August 28th, 2009

by JC

rehberg crash

Yes, this is the Rehberg crash scene. Click on the photo for a larger version.

Update: Doug points us to an update at the Flathead Beacon. It appears that some of the injuries are more serious than initially reported. I took an early “stable” report to mean that everybody was doing ok and out of danger, poking fun at the inanity of the picture.

But it appears that Dustin Frost, Rehberg’s state director suffered a head injury. Had I known that, I would not have made fun of the accident at his expense, and for that I apologize to him and his family, and to the others that may have been seriously injured. And I’ve toned down the entry, accordingly.

I am all too aware of brain injuries, being a survivor myself, and volunteering to work with people and children with TBI and acquired learning disabilities.

Ted busts a bronc

by Pete Talbot


Came across this photo at Daily Kos. It’s the recently deceased Sen. Edward Kennedy in Miles City riding a bronc. Here’s some background.

by Pete Talbot

Montana’s lone U.S. Representative was hospitalized in Kalispell after a boating accident on Flathead Lake near Big Fork, the AP reports.

Details are sketchy but apparently state Senator Greg Barkus was also involved in the accident.

And while I vehemently oppose both Barkus’ and Rehberg’s political philosophy, I hope their injuries aren’t serious and they have a speedy recovery.

(Hat tip to Doug.)

Jay Stevens

Jhwygirl brought up tort reform yesterday as a possible salve for rising health care costs, and quoted Governor Dean as saying it wasn’t in the bill because reformists didn’t want to fight too many enemies, including trial lawyers.

Probably what’s more likely is that Dean knows tort reform is bogus, but acted friendly towards it because the rising cost of malpractice insurance p*sses off doctors. But here’s the deal: high payouts aren’t the culprits for rising malpractice insurance costs, it’s (surprise!) private insurers who are to blame.

Some facts.

First of all, tort reform has had no effect on so-called “defensive medicine,” the over-treating of a patient (with loads o’ unnecessary procedures) to avoid malpractice suits:

A team at the University of Alabama looked into this last year. Their survey of studies related to malpractice insurance, defensive medicine and consumer health insurance premiums looked at 27 states with limits on non-economic damages, including Texas.

Their conclusion – “Tort reforms have not led to health care cost savings for consumers” – was published in the December issue of Health Sciences Review.
“It’s had a really small effect, or else it doesn’t seem to change defensive medicine,” said Michael Morrisey, a professor of health economics and health insurance and the director of the university’s Lister Hill Center for Health Policy.

(Update: A reader emailed and noted that periodical carrying the U of Alabama report was in “Health Services Research.” Here’s the citation:

Morrisey, M.A., Kilgore, M.L., and Nelson, L.J., “Medical Malpractice Reform and Employer Sponsored Health Insurance Premiums,” Health Services Research 43[6]:2124-2142 [December 2008])

(One possible answer as to why “defensive medicine” still proceeds can be found in Atul Gawande’s oft-cited piece, “The Cost Conundrum.” It’s the private hospitals seeking profit spurring on their doctors to pursue expensive treatments.)

Secondly, tort reform has no effect on the cost of malpractice insurance. Even insurance-friendly studies show variable outcomes in capping non-economic damages in malpractice cases. But nowhere is there evidence these lowered malpractice rates translate into lower healthcare costs, just higher profits for insurers and healthcare providers.

And getting away from economics, what kind of effect does tort reform have on patient care? According to Matt Jerzyk, quoting The Journal of the American Medical Association, “medical errors are the THIRD leading cause of death in the United States.” This problem is so serious and pervasive – yet rarely discussed – that Hearst newspaper reporters banded together to create “Dead by Mistake,” a website dedicated to medical errors and promoting better medical reporting procedures to help identify and avoid common mistakes.

Nowhere in this site do reporters advocate giving health care providers a disincentive to offer good patient care. If anything, the incentive for doctors to treat patients with procedures instead of patient care likely contributes to medical malpractice. That is, it’s likely the “free market” principles of private hospitals contributes to poor patient care.

As the evidence piles up, it’s readily apparent tort reform achieves only limited benefits, and none for you or me:

It’s apparent that tort reform has limited benefits, and only for certain parties: Tort reform serves Republican political interests by taking money out of trial lawyers’ pockets – traditional supporters of the Democratic party. Tort reform servers private insurers by increasing their profits without any corresponding increase in service, and protecting insurers and healthcare providers from the people they have wronged, often fatally.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Civil suits are the last recourse individual citizens have to punish large corporations for wrongdoing. Laws protect the big fish. Regulatory legislation is riddled with loopholes for corporate lawyers to steer their massive ships-of-commerce through. Big industry can afford almost exclusive access to our lawmakers (as evidenced by our current state of health care reform). Crack down on lawsuits and you take the last legal protections for the little guy against corporate America.

Tort reform = bad.


Jay Stevens

Well, Left in the West is down…Soapblox problem, apparently…they’re working on it (I hope). In the meantime, here I am! (Update: Turns out it’s not a Soapblox problem, but just that LiTW needs to update its DNS record…anyway, meet you over there in 5 days…)

Tester grows opaque over health-care reform and the public option: “I don’t need it either way,” Tester told The Associated Press between meetings with constituents. “I could either support it or not support it. It’s all in the design.”

Tester said it is more important to find a combination of ideas that can gather enough votes to get out of the Senate – although he is not yet certain it can be done. He also said the bill can’t add to the deficit, even if that means adopting a tax on wealthier people to help pay for it.

“I too am worried about the national debt,” Tester said. “I certainly don’t support taxing the middle class, they pay their fair share already. But I think you are going to have to give something to get something.”

Mike Enzi admits that his only goal in participating in the “gang of six” is to block health care reform. Hey! Ho! Long live bipartisanship! So…Max? Why keep hammering away at this stuff? Don’t you think you’re going about this the wrong way?

The Wizard of Kos has some strong words for our senior senator after receiving spam from his office, saying Max was working to “advance the issues and causes that were so dear” to Ted Kennedy: “Who the fuck is ‘we’? What a fucking asshole. Baucus has spent the past several months working with Republicans to water down or even destroy the kind of health care reform that Kennedy spent his entire life trying to enact. Everything Max says about Kennedy is true, but he is nothing like Kennedy ever was. While Kennedy had his constituents and the American people’s best interests in mind, Baucus is far more interested in keeping his lobbyist pals happy.

“If Baucus actually gave a shit about the causues that were so dear and important to Kennedy, he would quit his sham and opaque bad-faith “negotiations” with Republicans on his committee, and sign on to a robust public plan.”

Montana is number 2 for potential wind energy production! Should make Montana a hot spot for energy development under any new green legislation…

The ATF prepares to square up against the “Montana Firearms Freedom Act.” Expect the feds to win and hilarity to ensue.

The latest anti-reform lie: healthcare reform will force you to circumcise your boys! (Er…shades of Antisemitism here?)

And the RNC is mailing its members and suggesting that Democrats will use voter registration information to deny them health care.

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS): “Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope.”

It’s bad enough that these Tea Baggers are vowing to get violent with the administration, but why do lawmakers stand by, or even encourage this kind of talk?

Kennedy’s memorial will be politicized, like Wellstone’s? Well…besides the fact that Wellstone’s memorial wasn’t politicized…don’t they mean Reagan’s?

Mitt Romney not interested in Kennedy’s seat. Oliver Willis: “Mass. not interested in Mitt, more like it.”

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