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Rick Perry’s Snake Oil Cure For Our Sick Healthcare System

From The Huffington Post:

By Wendell Potter

In his quest to win the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is perpetuating a convincing hoax: that implementing Texas-style tort reform would go a long way toward curing what ails the U.S. health care system.

Like his fellow GOP contenders, Perry consistently denounces “Obamacare” as “a budget-busting, government takeover of healthcare” and “the greatest intrusion on individual freedom in a generation.” He promises to repeal the law if elected.

Unlike those in the “repeal-and-replace” wing of the Republican Party, however, Perry has emerged as leader of the “repeal-and-let-the-states-figure-it-out” wing that believes the federal government has no legitimate role in fixing America’s health care system.

“To hear federal officials tell it, they’ve got all the answers on health care and it’s up to the rest of us to sit, wait and embrace whatever solution — if any — they may eventually provide,” Perry wrote in a newspaper commentary in 2009. “I find this troubling, since states have shown they know a thing or two about solving problems that affect their citizens.”

Even as he points with pride to the alleged benefits of malpractice and other tort reforms that have been enacted during his tenure as governor of Texas, Perry says he is opposed to tort reform at the federal level. He cites the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which states-rights advocates say limits the role of the federal government.

But if Perry had his way, all the states would do as Texas did in 2003 when lawmakers enacted legislation, which he championed, limiting the amount of money juries can award patients who win malpractice lawsuits against doctors and hospitals. The legislation capped non-economic (pain and suffering) damages at $250,000 in lawsuits against doctors and $750,000 against hospitals. A few months after he signed the bill into law, the state’s voters narrowly passed a constitutional amendment, also endorsed by Perry, which had the same effect. Proponents of the amendment wanted to be sure the new law would be constitutional.

Texas, he wrote in that 2009 commentary “stands as a good example of how smart, responsible policy can help us take major steps toward fixing a damaged medical system, starting with legal reforms.”

As a result of the 2003 tort reform law, malpractice liability insurers reduced their rates in Texas and, according to Perry, the number of doctors applying to practice medicine in the state “skyrocketed.”

He says that in the first five years after tort reform was enacted, 14,498 doctors either returned to practice in Texas or began practicing there for the first time.

That certainly sounds impressive — so long as you look at that number in isolation. But when you look at how Texas stacks up with the rest of the country in terms of physician growth in direct patient care, tort reform appears to have given Texas no leg up in competition with others states for doctors. In fact, according to statistics compiled by the American Medical Association and other physician organizations, Texas has actually lost ground when it comes to the number of doctors practicing in the state since tort reform was enacted. Big time. Continue reading

Gov. Haley: Let States Opt Out Of Health Care Law

Haley touts “tort reform” as magic bean for reforming health care “our way”- a lightweight policy prescription, at best.
By JIM DAVENPORT – Feb 14, 2011
By The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday they are backing federal legislation that would free states from mandates of the new national health care laws while advocates say they’re playing politics.

Graham said he’ll introduce a bill that will allow states to opt out of requirements that are at the heart of the new law, including mandates for individuals and businesses to buy coverage, as well as expansion of state Medicaid programs and minimum coverage requirements.

“There is a better way,” Graham said. “This bill allows the state of South Carolina to say ‘no’ to Washington when it comes to federally run, dominated health care.”

Haley said the federal law emphasizes health care services.

“What we need to be focused on is health — how do we get the most health for the least amount of money. If South Carolina does it right, we will actually reform health care our own way in our own state,” Haley said. “We need to be focused on adding more jobs. We don’t need to be focused on adding more Medicaid.”

In December, Haley asked President Barack Obama about ways to opt out of the federal law. Haley said Obama told her that if the state could operate a health care insurance exchange, allow insurance pools and bar insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing health care conditions, it might be able to opt out.

But looking into that so far suggested that about 175,000 people who now have employer insurance policies in South Carolina would instead get coverage through a Medicaid-backed plan, Haley said.

Graham’s legislation “is a surefire way of opting out in the way that we want to and not the way the president wants us to,” Haley said.

It doesn’t mean doing nothing, Haley said.

“First of all, we are absolutely going to do something in South Carolina, because health care is a strong issue in South Carolina that we care about,” Haley said. “But we’re going to do it our way. We’re going to do it through tort reform. We’re going to do it through jobs and education. We’re going to do it through Medicaid reform in the way that we look at how we manage our Medicaid dollars.”

South Carolina has already reformed its medical malpractice lawsuit system, said John Ruoff, program director for the advocacy group South Carolina Fair Share.

“How much more money are we going to save?” Ruoff asked.

Ruoff said South Carolina stands to create jobs with the federal health care law because more federal matching funds will be available for the state. Opting out would mean the state gives up $10.9 billion that would go to doctors, hospitals and other health care businesses. He said it raised questions about whether Graham and Haley were putting politics ahead of the state’s well-being.

And Frank Knapp, chief executive of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said at least 96 percent of the businesses in South Carolina have fewer than 50 employees and wouldn’t be required to buy health insurance under the federal laws.

At the same time, new federal tax credits that encourage smaller employers to buy insurance are already working, Knapp said.

“Small businesses are not running away in fear,” he said. “They are taking and using the tax credits that are already in this bill.”