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January 08, 2005


Media Matters matters

The David Brock-run Media Matters for America accuses the Washington Post of botching its litigation reform coverage--but then proceeds to make a gigantic error of its own.

MMFA complains that the Post discussed the debate over whether malpractice reform would reduce malpractice insurance rates without resolving it. MMFA contends that the question isn't debatable: the Bush administration is wrong. Why? MMFA quotes the CBO on health insurance rates. Unfortunately, doctors can't get malpractice insurance by buying health insurance.

This is what MMFA gets for relying on ATLA fact sheets instead of primary sources. In fact, what the CBO said about malpractice insurance rates was that the administration proposal "would lower premiums nationwide by an average of 25 percent to 30 percent from the levels likely to occur under current law."

MMFA also misrepresents the CBO on the question of defensive medicine by claiming that the CBO said there was "no evidence that restrictions on tort liability reduce medical spending." This is quote mining: in context, CBO was referring solely to whether a particular statistical methodology supported the hypothesis, and supports it solely with that conclusory sentence. In fact, the CBO cites a number of studies showing that litigation reform does reduce unnecessary defensive medicine costs, and calls the issue of defensive medicine savings an open question meriting further research. (HHS, in comparison, citing a Quarterly Journal of Economics study, argues that defensive medicine cost savings from litigation reform would be in the tens of billions.)

It's interesting that MMFA treats the CBO as authoritative when it incorrectly thinks that the CBO doesn't support litigation reform. One wonders whether MMFA will correct itself and chastise the Washington Post for being too solicitous of trial lawyers now that it should know that its authoritative source actually provides support for President Bush's proposal.

MMFA might be in need of some litigation reform themselves. The Sinclair Group, upset at MMFA's claims that it led a successful boycott of the broadcaster, has threatened that it "will aggressively pursue any organization or any individual" who commits "trade defamation."

Posted by Ted Frank at 12:11 AM | TrackBack (3)



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