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Failed ‘tort reform’

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Three years after it was enacted, there is no evidence that the state “tort reform” law has lowered the cost of medical malpractice insurance, the law’s supposed objective. Three years from now, there will still be none.

State Insurance Commissioner Julie Bowman told a legislative committee last week that it’s too early to judge the effect of Act 649 of 2003 on malpractice rates. But lowering rates was never the real purpose of a law that made it harder for patients to win lawsuits against errant doctors. Though the bill’s supporters blathered about cheaper insurance, not a single insurance executive appeared before legislative committees to make such a claim. They dared not. Indeed, evidence was submitted that at least one out-of-state head of a large insurance company had confessed that “tort reform” would not lower rates, which are cyclical and depend on the companies’ need to sell more or less insurance.

The true purpose of Act 649 was to fatten insurance companies and doctors at the expense of consumers and patients, the legislature being always eager to help those who don’t need it. Hearings proved that “tort reform” was unnecessary. Legislative supporters didn’t even try very hard to defend their bill. They just went ahead and passed it, much as, a couple of years earlier, they had approved the deregulation of the electricity business. That was shortly before the great national power-company scandals were exposed, the largest of which was Enron. The deregulation of both electricity and securities had allowed corporate crooks to steal millions from consumers, stockholders and employees. After that, electricity deregulation was too hot to handle even for Arkansas legislators, normally fireproof when it comes to special help for special interests. They repealed deregulation at the next session.


Chums

Congressional Republicans and quasi-Republicans don’t approve of popular elections, nor competitive political parties. Overt Republicans sought to impeach a popularly elected president. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a nominal Democrat, is trying to circumvent the outcome of a Democratic primary. Rejected there, Lieberman is still running, now as an independent. His principles won’t let him do otherwise, he says. His principles obviously don’t include loyalty or honesty.

Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor endorses Lieberman’s putting himself ahead of both Democracy and democracy. Pryor is not much of a Democrat himself, except in election years. What matters to him is that he and Lieberman are Washington insiders, occupying their seats by something like divine right. (Or family connections, in Pryor’s case.) How dare these presumptuous voters try to hold them accountable for their actions?

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