Perhaps you were surprised last night to hear President Obama endorse the idea of lawsuit reforms in health care. Don't be. He did not deviate even slightly from the party line of the trial lawyers, whose massive and almost unanimously Democratic $10 millions in political contributions have given them outsized clout in the Obama White House.
What Obama said is that he is “willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including…medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.”
Now, here's the catch: John Edwards, the former vice presidential candidate, never filed a single frivolous malpractice lawsuit. Despite what you'll hear some conservatives say, few lawyers ever do. Frivolity has never been the problem in malpractice law. No sane trial lawyer takes a weak case and goes up against a malpractice insurer that has unlimited resources and a crack legal team -- that's a proven way of losing money. You file frivolous lawsuits against the corner grocery, but you only file serious cases in malpractice.
The reason malpractice costs so much is that juries see real, non-frivolous injuries and then (1) make bad decisions based on lawyers' unsound medical theories (like the ones that made John Edwards rich), and (2) award disproportionate, unreasonable amounts, even in cases where the plaintiff really does deserve something. The latter is the biggest problem, and the easiest to solve. And Obama has no interest in imposing caps on non-economic damages, which would dramatically reduce the amounts paid in settlements and judgments. I don't care what he said last night, it will be a cold day in Hell before you see Obama sign or even speak in favor of HR 5.
Recall that in 2004, John Kerry and John Edwards the trial lawyer embraced a platform of "reducing frivolous suits" against physicians. Kerry-Edwards called for making voluntary arbitration available, for punishing lawyers who file three frivolous suits, and for requiring certification of cases in advance.
The effect of such proposal would be zero. Which is why the trial lawyers supported it then and encourage the use of this deflectionary tactic now, which is probably why Obama is using it.