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Letters to the Editor

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Repeating Falsehoods?

To the Editor:

Regarding the debate over medical malpractice insurance rates and the effect of malpractice suits and judgments (Letters, March 3rd issue), it is apparent that the medical-insurance complex has learned a lesson from its principal apologist, President Bush: If you repeat a falsehood often enough, eventually people will start believing it.

In a February article, The New York Times came to the following substantiated conclusions: 1) legal costs are not at the root of recent increases in medical malpractice premiums; 2) payments for malpractice claims have fallen sharply; 3) spikes in insurance premiums are directly related to insurers' practices, including underpricing coverage in the 1990s to get greater market share and poor performance on their investments; 4) between 1993 and 2003, the total paid out by insurance companies for claims against doctors and other medical professionals rose, on average, 3.1 percent annually (roughly the rate of inflation), whereas in 2003 alone, the cost of coverage rose between 10 and 49 percent; 5) the average payment for malpractice fell in 2004, as did the number of payments made for medical malpractice; 6) there is little or no correlation between the cost of coverage and the institution of damage caps.

According to the watchdog group Public Citizen, all of the other bases touted by Bush and his "reformers" for limiting malpractice cases (e.g., defensive medicine, junk lawsuits, exodus of doctors, etc.) have been thoroughly debunked, many by the federal government itself.

The same people who are trying to deceive the public about the true causes of the malpractice "crisis" are using that deception to hide the facts about medical mistakes, which have escalated alarmingly. The government estimates that upwards of 100,000 people die from medical mistakes annually. The Harvard Medical School has estimated that less than 50 percent of malpractice is ever discovered; hospitals rarely, if ever, suspend or revoke the privileges of incompetent doctors; and the rate of physicians impaired by drug abuse is alarmingly high.

It's a lot easier for the medical and insurance industries to contribute to the reelections of legislators willing to do their bidding than it is to solve the problem of malpractice or regulate the pricing practices of insurance companies, but the public should not be fooled.

Malpractice "reform" will only shield those industries at the expense of the improvement of medical care and the lives of the innocent victims of malpractice.

Martin H. Aussenberg

Memphis

Thanks A Lot

To the Editor:

I would like to thank Barry Chase for his letter (March 3rd issue) regarding my recent trip into the occupied territories and post my public apology for misusing my time while there.

His suggestion that we should have carried our message of peace to Hamas and the Al Aqsa Brigades was both stirring and insightful. We were invited to "bomber belt" workshops by militant Islamic factions but could not muster up the "courage" to attend. And I once passed a Vegas-style sign that read "Suicide Bomber Hideout," but, alas, in my cowardice I continued to drive. Another time, a few men offered us "guide to where the terrorists live" maps, but I cowardly opted to buy two cups of Arabic coffee from a street vendor instead.

I now see how foolish my original goal of meeting with ordinary Israeli and Palestinian Jews, Muslims, and Christians who are committed to finding a nonviolent peaceful solution to the conflict was. You have taken me from a journey of pipe dreams to pipe bombs. Wish me better luck than the Bush administration in actually finding them.

Joey Noffsinger

Memphis

Flim-flam Man

To the Editor:

The president comes to Memphis to ask for the people's support in his quest to make America the greatest debtor nation in history. This time, the flim-flam man wants to save Social Security by using false costs to fool Congress and the American people.

Let's look at some facts: Since Bush became president, the national debt has soared; the tax cuts that were supposed to lower the debt are a sham; American jobs that used to pay into Social Security are now in China and other low-wage countries; and the pension benefit guarantee has a $23.3 billion deficit.

The president is now pitting the young against seniors with his several trillion-dollar scheme to start private investment accounts. Guess who gets to pay off this added debt? The young workers he claims to be looking out for. Bush, like Nero, is fiddling while America becomes a debtor nation the likes of which the world has never seen.

Jack Bishop

Cordova

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