Posted in on September 14, 2006

Change vs. More of the Same

Autumn in Colorado – it’s a beautiful season. The weather is mild, the leaves are changing, and political ads are on the air (and in our mailboxes).

This election season is a critical one for Colorado voters. They have the opportunity in many races to choose between candidates who are willing to fight every day for individuals and their families and stand-up to corporate interests or choose candidates who believe in business as usual, providing perks to large insurance and energy companies and continuing to attack good men and women who fight to hold wrong-doers accountable.

Recently the Republican National Committee decided to come out of the swamp of Washington, DC and play some of their games on our Eastern Plains of Colorado. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a mailing attacking Angie Paccione, a Democrat running for Congress against Republican Marilyn Musgrave. The mailers are full of the usual RNC lies and false misrepresentations about the civil justice system. (false misrepresentations — sounds like what the insurance companies do, right??).

Here are some of the realities that people in Colorado need to know about our civil justice system:

1. Skyrocketing Insurance Premiums Are Actually the Result of Medical Malpractice Price-Gouging Doctors. A 2005 study conducted by former Missouri Insurance Commissioner Jay Angoff found that insurance companies have been price-gouging doctors by drastically raising their insurance premiums, even though claims payments have been flat, or in some cases decreasing. According to the annual statements of the 15 largest insurance companies, the amount malpractice insurers collected in premiums increased by 120.2 % between 2000 and 2004, while their claims payouts rose by only 5.7 %. Thus, they increased their premiums by 21 times the increase in their claims payments. [“Falling Claims and Rising Premiums in the Medical Malpractice Insurance Industry,” Jay Angoff, 7/05;]

2. The Number of Doctors in Colorado is NOT Decreasing. The most recent statistics from the American Medical Association indicates that the number of doctors in Colorado is increasing — not decreasing. According to the AMA, there were 13,051 doctors in the state in 2003, which increased to 13,455 in 2004. [“Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the U.S.,?? American Medical Association]. Furthermore, the number of emergency room doctors has nearly doubled from 14,243 in 1990 to 27,864 in 2004 [“Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the U.S.,” American Medical Association, 2006 edition, p.312]; the number of neurosurgeons has increased by more than 20 percent – from 4,358 in 1990 to 5,288 in 2004 [“Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the U.S.,” American Medical Association, 2006 edition, p.312]; and the number of OB-GYNs has increased by nearly 25 percent – from 33,697 in 1990 to 42,059 in 2004. [“Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the U.S.,” American Medical Association, 2006 edition, p.312]

3. A Survey by Business Week Magazine Found that the Threat of Lawsuits is Not a Major Concern of Small Business Owners. According to a survey published in Business Week magazine, owners of small and medium-sized businesses are generally not concerned about the threat of lawsuits. The survey found that the biggest threats to their businesses are: (1) Rising inflation, 44 percent; (2) The trade deficit and a weak dollar, 40 percent; (3) Energy shortages, 40 percent; (4) Excessive household and/or corporate debt, 29 percent; (5) The growing federal deficit, 28 percent; (6) Poorly prepared labor force/Shortage of skilled labor, 27 percent. [“The Big Concerns of Small Business; A new survey points to the future of Social Security as a major concern. Tort reform, on the other hand, elicits only yawns,” Business Week, 5/12/05]

The final reality is that Republicans, desperately trying to cling to power despite their abysmal record, are spreading misinformation and outright lies in an effort to eliminate the ability of Americans to hold big drug, oil, insurance and health care companies accountable. Trial lawyers represent injured consumers against large energy companies (Enron), the insurance industry (State Farm) and other polluters and profit mongers. Trial lawyers help workers fight for safe workplaces and workplaces free from discrimination on the basis of age, sex, race and religion. Plain and simple, trial lawyers fight for justice and access to justice, including the access that those same corporations seek when they feel they have been wronged. Access to the civil justice system is for everyone – not just the powerful and wealthy corporate interests.

This election season, Colorado voters have a choice – change vs. more of the same; accountability and responsibility vs. greed and cronyism. You decide.

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