Arbitration and legal reform; an inflammatory proposal; if your life insurance carrier goes broke
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We should give arbitration a fair trial ["Malpractice mess: Is this the way out?" July 9]. It could be a sound solution to the wave of medical malpractice lawsuits. The elimination of contingency fees should curb the lottery mentality of trial attorneys. But we need additional reforms to bring the legal profession into line.
State bar associations should be relegated to an advisory position regarding licensing. All lawyers must be licensed by an independent agency similar to Utah's Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, which administers and enforces laws related to the licensing and regulation of certain occupations and professions.
The Bar should set up specialty boards and require lawyers to recertify every 10 years.
All second-tier law schools must be closed. Any podunk university can open a law school for profit. The accrediting board of the ABA should follow the example of the AMA whose concern for medical education reform in the early 1900s led to the closing of many substandard medical schools.
Your editorial "Kill all the lawyers?" [July 9] labeled as inflammatory surgeon J. Chris Hawk's resolution at the AMA's annual meeting to refuse care to plaintiffs' attorneys involved in malpractice cases. I applaud him for having the guts to issue such a proposal. The public still sees doctors as rich, and only shock therapy will get their attention.
Hawk's sentiments reflect the desperation many physicians feel today, having endured the rigors of a medical education only to see our hopes of a lifetime gradually eroded by lawyers, insurers, and bureaucrats. Hopefully, the headlines Hawk inspired will get patients and their legislators thinking about how the malpractice crisis affects the cost of healthcare. Maybe a big reason many people didn't get a raise last year was that doctors were forced to do unnecessary, expensive tests to protect themselves, thereby jacking up employers' health insurance premiums.
Were Hawk's remarks inflammatory? You bet! But we need to get a fire started, especially if we're about to freeze to death of complacency. The AMA, with its stodgy, status-quo beliefs, isn't aggressive enough for the crisis that affects us today.
Your "Money Management Q&As" consultant reminded readers that the FDIC does not insure life insurance and annuity products ["Checking up on an Internet Bank," July 9].
However, I'd like to point out that all 50 states have guaranty associations to which licensed life and health insurers must belong. These provide minimum coverage for life insurance benefits and/or cash values of life policies and annuities if the carriers become insolvent.
For more information, check out the Web site of the National Organization of Life and Health Insurance and Guaranty Associations at www.nolhga.com. Click on "State Information." In the dropdown list next to "State Guaranty Laws and Provisions [all states]," choose "Benefit Limits." The coverage limits for all states are listed here.
William Ratz, PA-C
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Sep. 17, 2004;81:10.