Americans are struggling to pay for health care. I have practiced as a Miami emergency room injury attorney for over 20 years and I have personally witnessed the alarming increase in the number of our clients that either have no health insurance or cannot afford to receive treatment following an injury.
President Obama's idea to force individual Americans into a private contract for healthcare is admirable. After having spent the last twenty years of my life representing those who either did not have access to healthcare or were the victims of careless Florida doctors and hospitals I believe that having medical insurance does not guarantee a patient will receive healthcare that is within the prevailing standard of care.
I am uncertain as to what President Obama means when he uses the term "healthcare" instead of "insurance." Massachusetts is a perfect example of universal healthcare gone wrong, due to a shortage of doctors.
If President Obama's plan is to work there has to be doctors, nurses and hospitals available to provide safe medical care to the patients. And most importantly there needs to be mandatory medical malpractice insurance to protect patients when and if these doctors make mistakes.
This debate seems to have eclipsed a more dangerous law that recently voted on and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R.5. "Protecting Access to Healthcare (PATH) Act."
The measure passed by a vote of 223-181. It may have serious effects on Florida nursing home injury victims, as well as many others hurt by careless doctors or hospitals. H.R. 5 places arbitrary caps on the amount of money that plaintiffs can receive in a medical malpractice law suit, regardless of what the jury verdict is.
According to the Bill's sponsor, Rep. John "Phil" Gingrey [R-GA11] jury trials in medical malpractice cases are "a costly and ineffective mechanism for resolving claims of health care liability and compensating injured patients." They argue that the mere threat of a lawsuit "is a deterrent to the sharing of information among healthcare professionals which impedes efforts to improve patient safety and the quality of care." Among the stated goals of H.R. 5 is to "reduce the incidence of defensive medicine and lower the cost of health care liability insurance."
As a Broward County medical injury attorney, I feel as though it is irrational to believe that providing doctors and hospitals immunity or caps on damages will in any way increase the sharing of information which will provide improved patient safety and reduce injuries. In my experience, doctors and hospitals prefer to operate in secret, preventing access to the most fundamental information to allow patients to make informed decisions about their own healthcare. Until such time as healthcare providers agree to put patient safety ahead of profits, I do not think they should be afforded any additional protection from law suits. In my opinion, trial lawyers and those who represent those injured by careless doctors and hospitals are the strongest and most effective means to reduce unintended patient injury and death.
To read President Obama's position on H.R.5 click here.