0

Taking away right to sue when wrong has been done isn’t helping Texans

Op-Ed in the American Statesman
by Alex Winslow, Local Contributor and Executive Director of Texas Watch Texaswatch.org

While the state is crumbling under a real health care crisis, Gov. Rick Perry and his friends in the special interest lobby continue defending a lobbyist-driven health care battle from a decade ago that has failed Texas patients.

They want you to believe that taking away the legal rights of patients is good medicine. Try as they might, though, there is no disputing the facts:

Texas ranks dead last in the quality of health care, our health care costs are soaring at a rate faster than the national average, we rank near the bottom in the number of doctors who actually see patients, and we have the highest rate of people without health insurance. These are facts, not spin-doctored anecdotes like the ones the governor and his cronies in the insurance lobby like to use.

Back in 2003, politicians and lobbyists made a pack of promises about what they alleged would happen if voters approved a ballot proposition that severely and arbitrarily restricted the legal rights of Texas patients.
Among them was that what you spend on health care would go down. Turns out, they lied. Now, they are trying to cover their tracks.

Insurance industry lobbyist John Opelt recently said, “We did not and have not led voters astray.”

Really? Numerous political mailers paid for by Opelt’s group during the 2003 campaign tell a different story.

One mailer said the ballot initiative would “reduce … health costs.” Another said it would make “health care more affordable and available for all Texans.”

All of this comes from a playbook they ve been using for decades: Claim there is a crisis of some sort, say that restricting individual legal rights is the solution, promise Texas families and small business owners the moon, and attack anyone who disagrees.

Texans are smart, though. We know when someone is pulling a fast one.

How can it be that eliminating accountability for polluters, careless nursing homes, insurance companies, Wall Street bankers and big drug makers is good for the public? The answer is that it can t be.

Numerous academic studies by independent organizations and legal scholars prove that it is a fallacy to claim that taking away the legal rights of individuals will benefit the public at-large.

Whether we are talking about patients, policyholders or small business owners, we have seen time and again that when lobbyists succeed in stripping or curtailing individual legal rights, the public is harmed.

The only ones who benefit are a narrow group of special interests.

Yet every time one of these proposals comes to the Texas Legislature, the lobbyists claim this will be good for all Texas citizens.

Texans know better. We believe that accountability is good and necessary. This is a basic value we teach our children.

When a person or corporation causes needless harm, they should be held responsible for it. Plain and simple.

When wrongdoers succeed in getting away with the harm they cause, the rest of us are left to pick up the pieces and pay the tab.

Texas faces a host of real-world problems, including a broken health care system. It has been a decade since the governor signed away the rights of Texas patients under the false promise of better, cheaper, and more accessible care.

Sadly, rather than admitting he was wrong, Perry has chosen to be campaigner-in-chief and head lobbyist for the special interests.

Texans deserve real solutions from leaders who understand the importance of personal and corporate responsibility, and who want to find answers to our state’s problems that improve the lives of everyday Texans not just a narrow group of powerful interests.

0

When Are They Going to Learn?

From Texas Watch ”November 29th, 2011

Just because special interest lobbyists keep repeating the same thing over and over (and over) again, doesn’t make it true. In a recent op-ed piece, Thomas Wilder from the astro-turf lobby outfit known as the Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse once again makes the argument that patients should be gleeful that the insurance and medical industries stripped patients of our legal right to hold an unscrupulous physician, dangerous hospital, or careless nursing home legally accountable.

Wilder drags out the same tired arguments that proponents have been clinging to for years. The problem is that each of their arguments have been debunked by independent, non-partisan, media sources.

For instance, Wilder claims that increases in physician supply in Texas are the result of limiting the rights of patients. The highly-respected, independent fact-checking organization PolitiFact rated a similar assertion by Governor Perry false. Additionally, a comprehensive review of the impact of the 2003 law by the Associated Press concludes that the growth in physicians tracks population increases. The AP also found that most new doctors have opted to practice in urban areas that weren’t facing a doctor shortage rather than under-served communities that most need those new physicians.

Wilder goes on to suggest that restricting the rights of patients will accrue significant savings to the health care system and taxpayers. This is simply untrue. Health care costs at both the family level and the overall system level are up dramatically since 2003. Health insurance premiums for Texas families have risen 13% faster than the national average. Similarly, costs incurred by Texas’s taxpayer backed Medicare program have also outpaced the rest of the nation.

Finally, the spate of recent headlines from cities all across Texas about dangerous doctors who continue to see patients despite track records of abuse, needless injury, and even death cannot be ignored. The fact is that so-called tort reform has done nothing to improve patient safety.

While special interest groups like the one that Dr. Wilder speaks for and the insurance industry crow, Texas patients continue to struggle under a broken health care system. No matter how many times they claim otherwise.