But before I get around to debunking the usual Palin Trifecta™, consider the result of Public Policy Polling’s question: who do the birthers love? Perhaps not surprisingly, of all GOP contenders for 2012 Palin has the highest favorability rating with people who think Barack Obama’s middle name is Nicholae Carpathia.
The comments being unleashed on the polling firm’s blog are also predictable, offering a confused mishmash of false equivalencies and accusations of bias. To find that most birthers would vote for Palin is NOT to say that Palin is a birther — it just says that birthers, like Sarah, are idiots.
The sudden wave of those comments tells you her fan base is a rabid cult of personality. There are several high-traffic blogs dealing solely in Palin-related wingnuttery; all of them denounced the poll within hours or minutes of its posting, unleashing a wave of hateful commentary.
Which brings me back to Sarah’s Facebook message, because it — like her “death panels” nonsense — is bound to be echoed throughout the media in the week to come. And just as that sordid sophistry was allowed to run free without fact-checking, so might this one. Here, then, are some inconvenient facts:
- A very small number of physicians is responsible for an outsized number of malpractice cases.
- Evidence suggests more than 100,000 Americans die each year from medical malpractice, most of which could be eliminated through electronic records and better physician access to information.
- According to The Medical Malpractice Myth, when you add up legal fees, insurance costs, and payouts, malpractice suits account for less than 0.5% of all health-care spending.
- A Harvard study found that very few malpractice victims actually sue, while almost all frivolous suits are thrown out of court.
- Awards in jury verdicts are usually higher than awards in bench verdicts, but are much more likely to go against the plaintiff.
- In state after state after state, there is absolutely NO correlation between the rising cost of malpractice insurance and the number of malpractice lawsuits. In other words, lawsuits are not the reason for doctors’ rising insurance rates.
A recent RAND study looked at the growth in malpractice awards between 1960 and 1999. “Our results are striking,” the research team concluded. “Not only do we show that real average awards have grown by less than real income over the 40 years in our sample, we also find that essentially all of this growth can be explained by changes in observable case characteristics and claimed economic losses.“[...]
Anesthesiologists used to get hit with the most malpractice lawsuits and some of the highest insurance premiums. Then in the late 1980s, the American Society of Anesthesiologists launched a project to analyze every claim ever brought against its members and develop new ways to reduce medical error. By 2002, the specialty had one of the highest safety ratings in the profession, and its average insurance premium plummeted to its 1985 level, bucking nationwide trends. (Emphasis mine)
Given all of that, what does Sarah have to say? Well, she accuses Obama of “completely ignoring” the issue of tort reform — which is strange, because he hasn’t been.
In closed-door talks, Mr. Obama has been making the case that reducing malpractice lawsuits — a goal of many doctors and Republicans — can help drive down health care costs, and should be considered as part of any health care overhaul, according to lawmakers of both parties, as well as A.M.A. officials. (Emphasis mine)
Palin’s sources for her essay include two op-eds: a Wall Street Journal article by Scott Gottlieb, a member of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative “think” tank; and a Washington Examiner column by Texas secessionist Governor Rick Perry lauding tort reform in his state.
She also includes a review of Texas tort reform in which a trial lawyer asserts that state went overboard with damage caps:
- There are a few plaintiff friendly jurisdictions in lesser populated areas, but big city courts had few suits that did not involve medical error and “a legitimate bone to pick.”
- Stay-at-home mothers, children and the elderly often don’t have enough income or proof of future income to qualify for significant economic damages. Thus the cap on noneconomic damages makes their cases too costly for plaintiffs lawyers to pursue.
- The dramatic decrease in litigation takes away incentive for risk managers and others to ensure carefulness in medical care.
Except there can, and there should be. Yet who can doubt the power of simplistic messaging over a base that’s immune to facts?