They sell uninsured motorist, so what about underinsured doctor?

Special Internet Election Day Edition

The votes are in. Taking the grand prize as the most frequently asked question I've gotten this election season: "What about these damn ballot questions?" Followed closely by "Do they really expect me to read all that…stuff?"

A couple of weeks ago, I printed a primer on the big ballot questions, which you may access at

It goes a long way toward simplifying the simpler propositions in the ballotorial alphabet soup. But apparently nothing and no one can take care of the Big 3, the HMO-insurance-hospital-doctor-lawyer malpractice/legal fee brouhaha. Some of the best journalists in the state have written the pulp poundage equivalent of the latest Harry Potter novel trying to explain the ins and out, pros and cons and convolutions.

Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick probably spoke for many when he said "if I can't understand them, I'll vote against them all."

Like the presidential race, the polls conflict. The Reno Gazette-Journal/KRNV TV-4 poll on Sunday showed Questions 3, 4 and 5 all winning. The Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier showed a lead for Q-3, the doctors' initiative, with its opposite numbers, Q-4 and Q-5, trailing.

The major newspaper reports also conflict as to who has raised the most money. The RGJ said the St. Bernards have outfunded the Legal Beagles by "a nearly 3-to-1 margin in contributions, $3.7 million to $1.3 million" (Oct. 29).

The Reno paper pegs the spending at $2.5 million for the MD's vs. about $800,000 for the JD's. (Oct. 31)

As I noted in Sunday's Sparks Tribune, my spies report that post-election disclosures will show that the medical-hospital-insurance lobby will have spent well over $6 million, a number that the plaintiff's bar won't come near.

As a result of the dollar volume pleading to "keep our doctors in Nevada," it appears that the doctor's initiative, Question 3, may well pass. The Reno Gazette-Journal's several Sunday pages pretty well sort the wheat from the chaff in the conflicting claims, but one stands out: When repeatedly asked for an example of "frivolous lawsuit," the physicians' spin doctors have not been able to cite one. Not one.

I have thus suggested voting in favor of Q-4 and Q-5 as a sort of medium-range malpractice insurance in case Q-3 really puts the screws to medical consumers. Stated in its most oversimplified form, it caps pain and suffering damages at $350,000 no matter what the injury. The 2002 special legislative session allowed judges to remove the limit in cases of grotesque incompetence.

No matter what happens at the polls, the fight will not be over. If Q-3 passes, it goes into effect immediately. Q-4 and Q-5, being constitutional amendments, need to be passed by the voters twice. If experience proves they are not needed, they can always be voted down in the second round in 2006.

The doctors have also been circulating another petition to further limit legal fees on top of what Q-3 will impose. That measure, if it garners enough signatures, will be presented to the 2005 legislature and to the voters in 2006 if lawmakers do not pass it verbatim.

I was personally crestfallen to read Sunday's Reno Gazette-Journal because I know several of the good doctors interviewed. They are capable, honorable professionals, as are just about all the lawyers I know.

They are victims of a health care system in a spiral. The issues are far too complex to solve in one e-bulletin, so I invite those interested to join me at, a new website which will be devoted to these issues now and into the future.

It will have present legal and legislative news and compile in one place disciplinary actions of both doctors and attorneys.

It will be a marketplace of ideas, no matter how inane, such as the Golden Rule Insurance Company's "medical savings account," a tax break for the wealthy which will ensure the elimination of that little thing called Medicare. (Beware: Dubya will push the "health savings account" in his second term. Please see my column on the issue, linked to the new website, above.)

No advice diatribe is supposed to end without a call to action, so try this: If the public gets propagandized into enacting the meat-ax approach proposed in Q-3, the least our lawmakers should do next year is allow us to buy our own insurance.

If we are allowed to purchase uninsured motorist options to cover ourselves against renegade drivers, how about underinsured doctors' policies to indemnify sorely abused patients? Perhaps it could be done as simply as having a vending machine in hospital admitting rooms. Remember when you could buy death…er, I mean, life insurance next to the Coke machine at the airport?

What about revisiting Nevada's 1980's health care cost controls, which worked well but were allowed to sunset by lawmakers? (I wonder why?)

Perhaps lawmakers will allow a revision of the definition of lost wages if it can result in more equitable treatment. Right now, a dead teenager is worth less than a dead CEO based on projected lifetime earnings. That's never seemed fair to me.

If the docs want a cap on pain and suffering but don't want to cap lost earnings, let's work on that.

Which brings me back to I need your help as a health care consumer to help bring a bit of consumer-oriented sanity to what has been an often-hysterical discussion.

Good tools are emerging, starting with "Critical Condition," the new book by the best investigative reporting team in the country, two-time Pulitzer Prize winners Don Barlett and James Steele. Read more about their very important writings at the website. Sign up for our mailing list. Spead the word to your friends.

Barlett and Steele note that far from being the best health care system in the world as some, including William Jefferson Clinton, have bragged, we rate 29th, according to the World Health Organization. The big, fat, rich U.S.A. stands sandwiched between those industrial powerhouses Slovenia and Portugal. ("Critical Condition," page 13)

Yep, that's right, whupped by Slovenia. Go figger.

Those good reporters are not the only ones offering simple and sensible solutions. We have the money and the expertise to fix the system. All we lack is the good will.

When Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president on that dark day in 1963, the national press scrambled to tell Americans about their new leader. We learned that his favorite saying was "come, let us reason together."


Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano


Posted earlier today at BallotBoxing.US

Rights remain silent

NOV 1, 2004 —A Reno couple lost their right to vote today for the crime of wanting to register as Democrats. The Nevada Supreme Court turned down a motion for a writ of mandamus which would have ordered county voter registrars "to place in the voters register and poll book the names of Petitioners (Eric and Traci Amberson) and all Represented Petitioners who can present...documentation evidencing their good faith completion and submission of voter registration forms."

Justices Agosti, Becker, Gibbons, Maupin and Rose stated in their order that "although the petition raises significant issues," they did not feel it appropriate to intervene. The court is "ill-equipped to resolve factual issues such as whether petitioners are qualified electors and whether they submitted properly complete voter registration forms. The district court is the proper forum in which to resolve this matter in the first instance." Justice Michael Douglas, who is up for election on Tuesday, recused himself.

The case stemmed from activities of a GOP-retained organization accused in Nevada and other states of destroying registration forms of people who registered as Democrats. [Continuing updates at BallotBoxing.US]



"Critical Condition" Denver Post Review

A Blow Against the Secrecy State: Federal government
didn't even want to produce its photo ID law

Las Vegas Review-Journal Editorial 9-17-2004

Campaign 2004: Star Trek Virtual Politics

Father Diamond is Spinning in His Grave

Excerpt: All the President's Spin

The Orwell Diversion by Alex Carey

Review of Alex Carey's "Taking the Risk out of Democracy:
Propaganda in the US and Australia"

ORDER "Taking the Risk Out of Democracy"
Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty
By Alex Carey
Edited by Andrew Lohrey
Foreword by Noam Chomsky
University of Illinois Press

CNN's Lou Dobbs' new book "Exporting America" quotes Carey

The 1994 Labor Day Barbwire introduces Alex Carey
A brief history of neo-con PR and the roots of corporate propaganda

PBS/NOW with Bill Moyers: Outsourcing American Jobs

Apathy is never having to say you're sorry

Federal Election Commission: Voter Registration and Turnout 2000 | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors
| BallotBoxing.US
Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive


Copyright © 1982-2004 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

Site composed and maintained by Deciding Factors (CWA signatory)
Comments and suggestions appreciated. Sign up for news and bulletins.