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A Letter to the Editor in the March 7 Tomahawk Leader:
To the Editor:
The cost of and access to affordable health care were highlighted recently by articles and a press release. One article detailed the difficulty attracting doctors to rural hospitals and clinics and the other reported on a seminar hosted by the Wisconsin Law Journal entitled,” Life After Caps.” The press release came from Sen. Roger Breske’s office titled, “Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) Are Not a Cure.” I believe the three taken in context together illustrate why health care may become even more expensive in Wisconsin and, worst of all, unavailable for some.
In the press release, Breske makes a few points including, HSAs are “preying on his constituents,” they are a “band aid,” they could “hoodwink my constituents” and says he will continue to work on “demanding transparency in pricing.” I believe Sen. Breske is correct saying we need transparency in pricing for health care. People become very frustrated when they cannot easily get information as to the cost of a treatment or procedure. However, I do not understand what Sen. Breske means when he says that HSAs are “preying on his constituents.” Ditto for the “band aid” accusation. I encourage the senator to discuss this issue with constituents who have HSAs and insurance agents who sell them. He will find that many people are quite happy with the coverage they receive with an HSA. Many consumers with HSAs view them as a viable long-term answer for their health insurance needs. Make no mistake, HSAs are not a one-size-fits-all solution, but they are effective for many people. (In January), Wisconsin had its first multi-million dollar verdict in a medical malpractice case since the Supreme Court of Wisconsin threw out caps on non-economic damages. After the Supreme Court decision, the legislature passed a bill to limit non-economic damages to approximately $500,000. Gov. Doyle vetoed the bill. Barely a month after the malpractice award, the Wisconsin Law Journal hosted the seminar, “Life After Caps.” The seminar included topics as follows: “How to analyze a case where you can develop damages before spending a lot of money;” “Now that you know you have a good case – how do you advance it?” “Tools for trial to get the million dollar verdict.” Is it any surprise that an ambulance chaser extraordinaire from Chicago, Jeffrey Goldberg, was one of the presenters at the seminar?
At this same time, local news outlets reported that hospitals and clinics are having a hard time recruiting doctors to serve in rural areas. If Wisconsin becomes a haven for trial lawyers seeking multi-million dollar pay days, how are we going to attract doctors to our state, especially in rural areas?
It is time we build on successes like HSAs, not tear them down because they are not for everyone. We must put a reasonable limit on non-economic damages for malpractice claims while compensating fairly for actual damages. If we do not, why should doctors choose Wisconsin? Affordable, quality health care starts by giving consumers choices and encouraging good doctors to practice in Wisconsin.
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