Friday, August 07, 2009

Medical Malpractice Lobbying


I've observed previously that people who editorialize on the subject of healthcare and malpractice often have a hidden agenda, working, consulting or lobbying for healthcare interests. So you would think it would be a breath of fresh air to have the Washington Post give a column to a guy who decries the role of lobbyists:
Yet the congressional leadership has slammed the door on solutions to the one driver of waste that is relatively easy to fix: the erratic, expensive and time-consuming jury-by-jury malpractice system. Pilot projects could test whether this system should be replaced with expert health courts, but leaders who say they want to cut costs will not even consider them.

What are they scared of? The answer is inescapable - such expert courts might succeed and undercut the special interest of an influential lobby, the trial lawyers.
Ooh... the evil trial lawyers, so influential in the battle against "tort reform" that they've defeated tort reform efforts in.... I lose track... Is it now zero states? And in the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries they successfully kept... was it zero candidates from speaking out in favor of tort reform? And they've so coopted President Obama that you would never find him saying things like "medical liability issues - I think all those things have to be on the table".

Aw, but why let the facts get in the way of a talking point. Besides, on a big picture level, isn't he right - lobbyists distort the debate and we would be better off if they stayed out, or at least were honest about their role as lobbyists? Who wrote the column again.... One Philip K. Howard. The Post dutifully omits most of his qualifications from his mini-bio:
The writer is chairman of Common Good, a nonprofit legal reform coalition, and a partner with the law firm Covington & Burling LLP.
He's a what with the where now? A partner at Covington & Burling?
Covington & Burling is a major legal and lobbying firm focused on "industry and regulatory" and "corporate, tax and benefits" issues, and litigation. They have U.S. offices in Washington D.C., New York City and San Francisco, and European offices in London and Brussels.
Oh, but maybe it's a good lobbying firm that would never lie to the American public....
Covington & Burling also served as "corporate affairs consultants" to the Philip Morris group of companies, according to a 1993 internal budget review document which indicated the firm was paid $280,000 to "serve as general counsel to the Consumer Products Company Tort Coalition, agree the legal objectives with member company litigators, draft legislation and amendments, prepare lobby papers and testimony for legislative committees and administer the coalition's budget".

Covington & Burling was involved in organizing Philip Morris' Whitecoat Project, designed to help obscure the health effects of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.
And who does Mr. Howard's firm represent in the healthcare industry?
Covington advises and represents pharmaceutical manufacturers, device manufacturers, hospitals, health plans, and other health care providers on issues involving reimbursement in the Medicare and Medicaid programs and issues of health information privacy.
Everybody but the little guy. Surprised?

You'll find one constant in the columns by lobbyists and industry consultants of any political persuasion - at least those who aren't on the fast track to the unemployment line - when given a public platform, they never editorialize against the interest of their firm's clients.

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