President Obama will speak to the American Medical Association on Monday. What’s on the agenda of the President? There is speculation that he will support some form of medical malpractice reform to throw doctors a bone in his health care reform package. Whether he supports hard reform (caps) or soft reform is anyone’s guess right now. (SEPTEMBER 9, 2009 POST SPEECH UPDATE HERE)
Shocking? Biting the hand that feeds him? As I wrote back in December, Obama’s support of malpractice caps in Illinois was an incredibly overlooked clue to Obama’s receptivity to tort reform. No one was paying attention because every victims’ lawyer assumed Obama was a better choice than the other guy.
I voted for Obama and I would do so again: malpractice tort reform and other issues of importance to personal injury lawyers is just one issue of many that are important to me. But would medical malpractice lawyers have been better served with McCain in office? McCain would not have moved 60 Democrats on this issue. Obama might be able to do so. Remember, only the zealously anti-communist Nixon could go to China. This is obviously a little bit of hindsight analysis but maybe support of Obama was the wrong play for personal injury lawyers. Democrats rolled their eyes when President Bush called for malpractice caps. Obama’s political position rightnow is such that it is hard for Democrats to roll their eyes at much of anything he supports right now.
I still do not think malpractice reform makes it past the Senate and I think Obama will lose his base in Congress on health care reform if he pushes substantive medical malpractice reform which probably suits President Obama just fine. Obama causes no harm to his base and the AMA and its progeny will have a lot less anti-Obama venom in 2012. Of course, I’m just speculating on all of this but if politics is a chess match, Obama always seems three moves ahead.
I like that Obama is willing to flip on his base. I just think he is wrong in thinking that malpractice reform is what this country needs.
Post Script (5 days later): Okay, I completely overreacted and got bad information from the media and my “inside sources” on where Obama is on malpractice tort reform. Here is the text of Obama’s speech to the AMA with respect to medical malpractice.
Post-Post Scrip (3 months later): We are now post-Labor Day and the health care battle has waged on at the exclusion of every other domestic priority we have now. My first reaction may have been correct on where Obama is on tort reform. Some commentators are suggesting that President Obama is ready offer up caps on medical malpractice cases. You can find the argument as to how and why Democrats may flip on trial lawyer – its traditional benefactor – and why I think this will not happen here.