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Tort Reform Is Bunk

Posted 12/29/2004

Save Our Doctors has become a spearhead for the tort-reform movement, calling for a lower cap on “pain and suffering” awards with the intention of assuring the reduction of medical malpractice insurance rates (“Medical Emergency,” Mobtown Beat, Dec. 15).

Those doctors should do their homework before buying into this myth that has served insurance companies so well. What happened in three states where tort reformers were duped by insurance companies debunks tort-reform advocates’ justification for caps.

Texans amended their state constitution to place a cap on medical malpractice awards for pain and suffering. GE Medical Protective, the nation’s largest provider of medical malpractice insurance, has admitted in a filing that a $250,000 cap on damage awards for victims of malpractice will not lower physicians’ premiums.

According to the filing, in which the insurer requested a 19 percent hike for doctors’ insurance, “Non-economic damages are a small percentage of total losses paid. Capping non-economic damages will show loss savings of 1 percent,” which contradicts a March 2004 report in which GE Medical Protective stated that capping noneconomic damages is a “critical element (of reform) because in recent years we have seen non-economic damages spiraling out of control.”

In 1975, California enacted the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, but only after insurance reform was enacted did medical malpractice insurance rates drop, a drop for which tort reform is erroneously given credit.

In 1986, after insurers and doctors lobbied for and Florida lawmakers enacted a cap on noneconomic damages for malpractice claims, insurers Aetna and St. Paul increased doctors’ premiums. The companies argued that, despite earlier promises, malpractice caps do not actually lead to savings for doctors.

I hope that Maryland doesn’t place a cap on awards for pain and suffering that will benefit no one but insurers and bad doctors and will deny medical malpractice victims a basic constitutional right.

Jane Marshall
Clarksville, Tenn.

Not Anti-War Enough

Thanks for doing an interview with Rep. Benjamin Cardin and seeking answers about the “current situation in Iraq” (Q&A, Dec. 15). It was disappointing, though, to read his answers.

One does not support the troops in Iraq by voting for more funding for the war. The only legitimate way to support the troops is to bring them home from the quagmire. Surely Rep. Cardin remembers the tragic history of U.S. imperialism in Southeast Asia?

How many more people must die on both sides before the politicians realize the immense tragedy of this imperial exercise in the Middle East? How many more years should the United States occupy a country it invaded under false pretenses?

Maybe even more troubling than voting for the Bush administration’s war funding was the congressperson’s answer to the question on civilian casualties. First, he has no idea of the number of civilian dead, despite the availability of the Johns Hopkins University study (“100,000,” Mobtown Beat, Nov. 17). Then, a few weeks after the merciless invasion and destruction wreaked on the city of Fallujah, he claims that “U.S. policies have been very much targeted to try to keep the loss of life to a minimum.”

No wonder so many people had problems voting for the Democratic alternative for president—so many prominent Democrats support the war. But Bush Lite is a very flat and tasteless drink.

More than 900 children in the United States have lost their mothers or fathers in this horrific conflict. But the war in Iraq is awful for all involved, most especially for the Iraqi civilians. I urge Rep. Cardin to recognize the folly of his thinking on the war and become an outspoken opponent to any more funding of a war in a country where 50 percent of the population are children. We need those tax dollars right here in Baltimore.

Max Obuszewski
Baltimore

Have An Afrocentric Feminist Christmas

I want to say Merry Christmas to editor Lee Gardner and his excellent staff for their informative articles published this year. I want to wish you all a blessed new year, and challenge Mr. Gardner and all the City Paper writers to break away from the institutionalization of “white race history” reporting with a disregard for modern diversity of thoughts.

As an Afrocentric feminist who is a great fan of City Paper (the paper has been good to me in publishing my editorial letters and showing some of my cartoons), I have been very proud of your reporting of local politics and the names of elected officials who are not working to solve problems for poor people.

I believe that poverty in America, and in foreign countries, will make it difficult for world leaders to create good and sound ways to resolve political economy (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) to feed the masses who desire to live without hunger.

If Mr. Gardner and his staff—and readers of City Paper—get a few moments to rest alone to read a book, I would like for them to read the following books in the new year:

The Destruction of Black Civilization, by Chancellor Williams.

Why are there drugs in black communities? Trail of the Octopus, by Donald Goddard and Lester Coleman.

Why is AIDS in most places where black people live? The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS, by Edward Hooper.

Do white world leaders want to get rid of poor people of color in the world? Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, by Kevin Bales.

Why is there racism in America? A Rap on Race, by Margaret Mead and James Baldwin.

A couple of weeks ago, President Bush had an economic meeting of white minds to discuss where should America’s money be spent to save white political economical business wealth. I did not see one black face at the table with President Bush. I suppose Bush believes that our tax dollars (black folks’) must not co-exist with white money. We can have diversity in government ideas and programs, but no diversity in white economics. That’s the way to keep the political system of white supremacy “pure white.”

A black couple told me that they do not read City Paper because of the “fetish” sexual articles. The brother and his “thing” girl are not reading anything. Free the mind.

Larnell Custis Butler
Baltimore

Editor’s note: Local musical jack-of-all-trades, erstwhile City Paper production assistant, and Baltimore man about town Mark Linthicum (aka Mark Harp) died on Dec. 23 after a serious illness. Per his wishes, there will be no funeral, but there will be a wake in January. Please see next week’s issue for an appreciation of Mark’s life in Mobtown Beat.

Address letters to The Mail, City Paper, 812 Park Ave., Baltimore, MD 21201; fax: (410) 523-0138; E-MAIL. Only letters that address material published in or policies of CP, are no more than 500 words long, and include the writer’s name, address, and daytime phone number will be considered for publication. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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