ABOUT THE BIG BQ'S
(Nov. 1, 2004) The votes are in. Taking the grand prize
as the most frequently asked question I've gotten this election
season: "What about these *(/@#&! ballot questions?"
Followed closely by "Do they really expect me to read all
A couple of weeks ago, I
printed a primer on the big ballot questions.
goes a long way toward simplifying the simpler propositions in
the ballotorial alphabet soup. But apparently nothing and no one
can fully explain the Big 3, the HMO-insurance-hospital-doctor-lawyer
malpractice/legal fee brouhaha. Some of the best journalists in
the state have written the pulp poundage equivalent of the latest
Harry Potter novel trying to explain the ins and out, pros and
cons and convolutions.
Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick probably spoke
for many when he said "if I can't understand them, I'll vote
against them all."
Like the presidential race, the polls conflict. The Reno Gazette-Journal/KRNV
TV-4 poll yesterday showed Questions 3, 4 and 5 all winning.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier showed a lead for
Q-3, the doctors' initiative, with its opposite numbers, Q-4 and
The major newspaper reports also conflict as to who has raised
the most money. The LVRJ said the St. Bernards have outfunded
the Legal Beagles by "a nearly 3-to-1 margin in contributions,
$3.7 million to $1.3 million" (Oct. 29).
The Reno paper pegged the spending at $2.5 million for the MD's
vs. about $800,000 for the JD's. (Oct. 31)
As I noted in yesterday's
Sparks Tribune, my spies report that post-election
disclosures will show that the medical-hospital-insurance lobby
will have spent well over $6 million, a number that the plaintiff's
bar won't come close to.
As a result of the dollar volume pleading to "keep our doctors
in Nevada," it appears that the doctor's initiative, Question
3, may well pass. (The Oct. 31 Reno Gazette-Journal's mutiple-page
spread pretty well sorted the wheat from the chaff between the
conflicting claims, but one stands out: When repeatedly asked
for an example of a "frivolous lawsuit," the physicians'
spin doctors have not been able to cite one. Not one. See NewsLinks,
I have thus suggested voting in favor of Q-4 and Q-5 as a sort
of medium-range malpractice insurance in case Q-3 really puts
the screws to medical consumers. Stated in its most oversimplified
form, Question 3 caps pain and suffering damages at $350,000 no
matter what the injury. The 2002 Nevada special legislative session
allowed judges to remove the limit in cases of grotesque incompetence.
No matter what happens at the polls, the fight will not be over.
If Q-3 passes, it goes into effect immediately. Q-4 and Q-5, being
constitutional amendments, need to be passed by the voters twice.
If experience proves they are not needed, they can always be voted
down in the second round in 2006.
The doctors have also been circulating another petition to further
limit legal fees on top of what Q-3 will impose. That measure,
if it garners enough signatures, will be presented to the 2005
legislature and to the voters in 2006 should lawmakers not pass
I was personally crestfallen to read the RGJ story because I know
several of the good doctors interviewed. They are capable, honorable
professionals, as are just about all the lawyers I know.
All are victims of a health care system spiraling out of control.
The issues are far too complex to solve in one article or even
one election. Hence, the launching of this website devoted to
these issues now and into the future.
It will present legal and legislative news and compile in one
place disciplinary actions of both doctors and attorneys.
It will be a marketplace of ideas, no matter how inane, such as
Rule Insurance Company's "medical savings account,"a
tax break for the wealthy which will insure the elimination of
that little thing called Medicare. (Beware: Dubya
will push the "health savings account" in his second
No advice diatribe is supposed to end without a call to action,
so try this: If the public gets propagandized into enacting the
meat-ax approach proposed in Q-3, the least our lawmakers should
do next year is allow us to buy our own insurance.
If we are allowed to purchase uninsured motorist options to cover
ourselves against renegade drivers, how about underinsured doctors'
policies to indemnify sorely abused patients? Perhaps it could
be done as simply as having a vending machine in hospital admitting
rooms. Remember when you could buy death
er, I mean, life
insurance next to the Coke machine at the airport?
What about revisiting Nevada's
1980's health care cost controls, which worked well but were allowed
to sunset by lawmakers? (I wonder why.)
the docs want a cap on pain and suffering but don't want to cap
lost earnings, let's work on that. Perhaps
lawmakers will allow a revision of the definition of lost wages
if it can result in more equitable treatment. Right now, a dead
teenager is worth less than a dead CEO based on projected lifetime
earnings. That's never seemed fair to me.
Which brings me back to DoctorLawyerWatch.com.
I need your help as a health care consumer to help bring a bit
of consumer-oriented sanity to what has been an often-hysterical
Good tools are emerging, starting with Critical Condition,
the new book by the best investigative reporting team in the country,
two-time Pulitzer Prize winners Donald Barlett and James
Steele. You'll read more about their very important writings
here. Sign up for
our mailing list. Spead the word to your friends.
Barlett and Steele note that far from being the best health care
system in the world as some, including William Jefferson Clinton,
have bragged, we rate 29th,
according to the World Health Organization, sandwiched
between those industrial powerhouses Slovenia and Portugal.
(Critical Condition, page 13)
Yep, that's right, whupped by Slovenia. Go figger.
The good reporters are not the only ones offering simple and sensible
solutions. We have the money and the expertise to fix the system.
All we lack is the good will.
When Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president on that dark
day in 1963, the national press scrambled to tell Americans about
their new leader. They found his favorite saying: "Come,
let us reason together."
well. Raise hell.