2004 Election

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America Must Change Leadership to Make Progress in Resolving Healthcare Crises HCI, a national healthcare consulting firm, has objectively analyzed the two major Presidential candidates’ healthcare plans. In light of the Kaiser Foundation’s finding of an 11.2% average healthcare insurance premium cost increase, double-digit cost increases for the 4th consecutive year, the failure of the Bush Administration to proactively promote the extension of a ban on automatic weapons, its failed policies to control costs and ensure universal access to all Americans, and its complacency in addressing quality and patient safety issues, HCI calls upon Americans to change the nation’s leadership on November 2, 2004. Medical malpractice liability tort reform is one of several of the President’s delusional vehicles for controlling healthcare costs. The President frequently tells voters at his campaign stops, “To improve health care, we must limit the frivolous lawsuits that raise the cost of health care and drive good doctors out of medicine.” The President has known or should have known that this is a red herring for at least two years. Despite easily accessible and contradictory factual information, some employers and some of the media have reached the pinnacle of parroting disinformation. Medical malpractice and negligence is an international problem. Patient safety and healthcare quality are significant problems. The President often talks about ‘junk lawsuits’ or ‘frivolous lawsuits’. There is nothing junk or frivolous about repairing a healthy artery while leaving the defective artery unattended. No technology in the world will prevent medical errors when anesthesiologists drift between two or more surgical patients simultaneously to maximize their earnings. No clarity of charting will prevent staff from leaving hypodermic needles laying around after use where they can perforate another patient and infect the unsuspecting patient with AIDs or another disease. A computer is unable to ensure that temporary nursing staff have the requisite skills to care for burn patients or other patients requiring unique knowledge and training. Government must do more to identify and purge the relatively small number of impaired, incompetent, and chronically dangerous healthcare clinicians. Discipline can no longer be left to ‘peer review’ committees within hospitals or state professional licensure standards boards consisting of reluctant and protective peer practitioners.

Insurance cost escalation for malpractice liability, property, and auto insurance stem from the same source — poor returns on insurers’ market investments, mismanagement, reinsurance costs, and greed. Healthcare providers should purge their ranks of incompetent and impaired offenders (like the physician recently dropped by Vice President Cheney for narcotics addiction), use technology to reduce medical errors, and train staff to be more diligent in the care of patients. For decades, accreditation and membership organizations — for physicians and hospitals — have been trying to ‘educate’ their members in an effort to reduce medical errors. It hasn’t worked.

The public has a right to know that a plaintiff’s attorney, most of whom work for their clients on a contingency basis because most people cannot otherwise afford to pursue their claims, is invariably working against very expensive defense trial attorneys. Litigation defense attorneys are paid hourly to defend their healthcare or corporate clients. Plaintiffs’ attorneys must win a settlement or judgment to be compensated. Civil defense attorneys are paid by their clients win or lose.

The United States suffers more than 195,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries and infections annually because of medical errors, most of which are preventable. More Americans are killed and injured each year because of medical malpractice and negligence than were killed and injured during our entire decade of involvement in the Vietnam War. Federal and state medical liability caps establish disincentives to quality care. Medical malpractice liability tort reform is the first in a series of efforts by greed merchants to introduce no-fault liability into the scheme of American life. Primary beneficiaries of medical malpractice tort reform: malpractice insurance companies, healthcare professionals, hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies, managed care organizations, and other healthcare organizations.

Association health plans (AHPs), health savings accounts (HSAs), and tax credits are also disingenuous pipe dreams in the President’s plan to address healthcare cost and access problems confronting tens of millions of Americans. If Bush loses in November, the Kerry Administration will still have opposition by de facto healthcare lobbyists serving in Congress, elected by constituents and financed by special interests. Most notable is the current Senate Majority Leader, physician, and possible 2008 GOP Presidential candidate, Bill Frist. Conflict-of-interest is no longer in the closet; it is more evident and transparent in Congress than at any time in American history.

We believe that Senator Kerry’s healthcare plan will resolve some of the nation’s healthcare cost and access problems. A fresh start is needed by the nation to seriously address a crisis, which is steadily posing a serious public health threat to our nation. Bush has not and will not provide this leadership.

Terry B. Brauer has been a healthcare management and public policy consultant for 25 years. He is the CEO of HealthCare Initiatives, Inc., a national healthcare consulting firm. His firm’s in-depth analysis of the Bush-Cheney, Kerry-Edwards, and single payer universal healthcare proposals is available @ http://www.healthcare-consulting.com/2004ElectionVotersGuide.html

Terry B. Brauer, CEO


HealthCare Initiatives, Inc.

16012 SE Flavel Drive, # 1000

Portland, OR 97236 503-761-5100

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