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Talk to any average American about the health care system and there is no doubt that many will agree that the system needs to be fixed. Too many people don’t have coverage, the rates are killing struggling small businesses, and non preventative care just leads to more expensive deadly problems later. As Washington continues to look at the issue, it is clear that every special interest is angling into the debate. It is vital that the consumer be thought of and demand to be protected in the process.

Democracy Corps launched into intensive focus groups and came up with key findings that need to be undertaken:

    • Build a narrative around taking power away from the insurance companies and giving it to people.

    • The president and reform advocates have to explain concretely the changes that will mean lower costs.

    • Show all voters and seniors that there are benefits for them, including prescription drugs.

    • All of these points should be made with the dominant framework that continuing the status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable.

    • Voters need to hear clearly what changes health care reform will bring. Never losing health insurance when you lose a job or get sick, power shifted from insurance companies to people, reduced costs for you and your family, business and country.

For each consumer, we must see access to care and value of those services be at the forefront of the discussion. At the same time, Insurance companies and big business can not be allowed to make tort reform the issue. Conservatives tout the myth of “defensive medicine” as evidence that medical negligence suits are driving up health care costs. The American Association for Justice (AAJ) cited reports and news stories that dismiss the notion of “defensive medicine” as a myth. As for reforming our tort system generally, a story in Bloomberg News cited Harvard researcher, Amitabh Chandra, who said “No serious economist thinks that saving money in med mal is the way to improve productivity in the system.” In response to an editorial in USA Today, AAJ’s president, Les Weisbrod, wrote an op-ed refuting claims that defensive medicine and medical malpractice suits are responsible for the rising cost of health care. Les Weisbrod, noted, "According to the Institute of Medicine, 98,000 people die every year because of medical errors. Eliminating these errors, not further hurting the victims of negligence, is where lawmakers should focus their attention." He added, "By taking away the rights of people to hold wrongdoers accountable, the quality of health care will suffer tremendously." Weisbrod also said that "the president’s focus should be on insuring Americans and implementing empirically-based practice guidelines to raise the standard of care and better protect patients."

Linda Lipsen, AAJ’s lobbyist, said, "Defensive medicine is a buzzword that encompasses a myth that doctors are doing unnecessary tests, thereby elevating the cost of health care because they’re worried about lawsuits." She added, "We haven’t seen any evidence from any reputable organization that there’s really a link between getting people to do unnecessary tests and being sued. The reason doctors do the tests is they have a profit motive." On a news segment of CNBC Reports (6/15) Les Weisbrod, AAJ’s president discussed "President Obama’s health care plan…with Dennis Kneale." Weisbrod said, in regard to the tort reform issue as it relates to trying the medical malpractice suits in federal versus state courts, "I think the issue is that we should have a right to jury trial, guaranteed by the seventh amendment." He said, however, that pre-emption was not what the debate was about.

These are very important times as we look at one of the most significant changes ever to coverage that affects each and every one of us. Hopefully, the consumer will see justice in what is passed.

Take advantage of your Senators and Representative coming each weekend. Please take this opportunity to reach out to them by attending town hall meetings or making an appointment request to visit briefly with them. You can get information on any scheduled public meetings or town hall meetings by calling their in-state office directly. It’s important that the average person be heard.


  1. Gravatar for Daniel 8791

    This IS a great article. The process of reconstructing the health care in the United States is enormous compared most other problems we face today in this nation. The current system is like a race car engine, out of control and ready to blow up unless it's slowed down and tuned properly for the changing conditions and envirnoment it's in. I've heard estimates on the number of uninsured people in this country, and each time that I've heard them; I thought that they seemed way lower than they likely are today. The Democracy Corps guidelines looks like a very good way to start out the process and get us where we need to be.

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