Interesting article in today’s Washington Post on the medical malpractice insurance crisis. It is one of the more in-depth news analyses I have seen on the whole issue.

I am especially intrigued by a chart that accompanies it that shows the median settlements and jury verdicts in malpractice cases. Unfortunately, it appears that the on-line story does not contain the chart (or at least I didn’t see it). But it is interesting because it shows a very wide range between DC, VA, and MD on both settlements and jury verdicts. Most interesting is that MD has by far the lowest average settlements (only about $17k according to the chart) it has by far the highest median jury awards ($761k). By contrast for DC the figures are $170k versus $465k, and for VA $305k versus $670k. I can’t think of any reason why MD’s settlements are so low relative to its jury awards–I would have predicted that high jury awards would tend to generate higher settlements as well (a pattern which seems to hold in DC and VA). A few years ago I wrote a short article on the political economy of liability reform and provided some observations on what types of reform may be more political feasible than others and the political dynamics that can bring about reform, using President Bush’s successful liability reform efforts while Governor of Texas as a case study. Some of the details are a bit dated now, but the general analysis I think remains sound. (If that link doesn’t work, the essay can also be found here.)

Not coincidentally, Jeffrey Birnbaum has an article on the same page of the Post noting that business interests are increasingly tilting towards supporting Republicans. He describes in particular the effect that the naming of John Edwards as VP candidate has had on galvanizing the Chamber of Commerce, which traditionally had been fairly neutral, but which has been galvanized by concerns over the liability system and liability reform issues. According to Birnbaum there are also some business 527 groups warming up in the bullpen to attack Edwards on the trial lawyer issue, including the Prosperity Project. Unfortunately, much of the cool stuff in this article is also in a chart that isn’t reproduced on the Washington Post web page (at least not with the article).

Amazingly, according to Birnbaum’s figures, Microsoft continues to support Democrats and Republicans almost equally ($454k to Republicans and $404k to Democrats). Which simply raises again the often-remarked question of how could a company that is so smart on business matters be so dumb when it comes to politics? Do they really want another Democratic Attorney General?

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