President Clinton’s second term has so far lacked vision and a clear direction. This is quite disheartening when you remember that only four years ago he promised Americans a bigger government and a nationalized medical care system. His vision was something modern liberals could rally around. Under his plan, a substantial portion of our nation’s economy would have been placed under governmental control. Most importantly though, the thought of collectivizing and leveling our medical care made the liberals feel good about helping all those people, if not in reality at least in perception. For modern liberals, after all, perception is reality. Unfortunately for President Clinton, the American public realized what a bad deal his new Democratic deal was and rejected it vehemently.
Since that rejection, the President has yet to find another rallying cry to gather his liberal flock. Sure, he’s tried attacking the modeling industry for their heroin chic look, and he’s talked about requiring volunteer work in national service, but these just have not captured the liberals’ imagination. Nothing compares to the Great Health Care Scheme. He needs another good ploy. I think I have found one for him: Nationalized Legal Care.
To tell you the truth, I do not know why President Clinton has not thought of this already. The legal bills that Americans acquire each year are staggering. He ought to know. Bill Clinton says he can truly feel our pain, because he, the Commander-in-Chief himself, has been slapped with several lawsuits during the past five years. It is rumored that his legal bills have rapidly amounted to over $1.5 million in just a short time. In fact, he has even expressed concern about having to file bankruptcy; but luckily, he has several friends who have come to his aid. With his own abundant personal experience, I am astonished that President Clinton has not stepped forward to provide access to more equitable legal care for all Americans by nationalizing our legal care system. He, of all people, should realize how important it is to have legal help in a time of need. As the Great Empathizer, President Clinton should take up this gauntlet and demand that something be done to help the people. Certainly, there is no one better to provide that help than our government?
Recent statistics show the average American is far more likely to wind up in court this year than in the hospital. That fact is even more startling when one realizes that a study found almost 80% of the total U.S. work force is not covered by a legal insurance plan. With over 80 million lawsuits filed every year, which vary from failed real estate deals and sexual harassment to a spilt cup of coffee, Americans need their lawyers! With lawyers charging such outrageous fees, leading many law-abiding citizens to financial ruin, Americans need Nationalized Legal Care!
Nationalized Legal Care is something doctors should rally behind. Just think how it could help physicians and their patients. Physicians, with their purported deep pockets, are far more likely to be sued than the average American. With the over abundance of ambulance chasing lawyers, all it takes is a mad patient with overly high expectations and an equally over eager lawyer. In today’s litigious climate it is no longer a matter of if we are ever going to get sued, but when; and when that happens, whether the suit is legitimate or not, we will be forced to seek the advice of some lawyer charging around $150 to $200 an hour.
If, however, we had the Clinton Nationalized Legal Care Plan, we would be able to take our legal insurance card to the general practice lawyer in our Legal Maintenance Organization (LMO). After reviewing our case, he would call our contract carrier to get permission to refer us to a medical malpractice lawyer. If approved, we would then meet with our LMOs first available specialty lawyer. He would take our case and after filing the proper paperwork, begin to help us with his unique expertise in judicial proceedings. It would be wonderful! Our lawyer could not charge us a penny more than the minuscule co-payment required by our legal insurance company. Instead, he would get his payment from the LMO which would insure he could bill no more than $80 an hour, barely enough to cover his office overhead and support his family while on the way to corporate serfdom.
Nationalized Legal Care could also solve other important problems. Have you noticed how hard it is to find a family attorney or general practice lawyer who gives old time advice and counsel? Yet, there seem to be too many specialists and hot shot litigators. The fact is that we already have a glut of specialty lawyers — corporate, tax, and trial attorneys. We need to take action now to insure that more law students are going into general practice law. What could be a better way than to let government step in and correct the problem? A law could be passed requiring all law schools to graduate no less than 60% general practice lawyers. Thanks to government constraints on the free market, all those aspiring trial attorneys and high-priced corporate and tax lawyers would have to become much more efficient (i.e., cheaper) general practice lawyers.
My friends, surely you can see that we need this protection. I urge you to write President Clinton. Maybe, he can have Mrs. Clinton and Ira Magaziner start to work on this right away. Also, call your senators and representative or any other ex-lawyer you know who is now a politician or a judge. Surely, they will want to support this campaign and help solve the coming legal crisis. Surely, everyone can see the importance of this judicious legislation that will protect Americans from any unforeseen judicial catastrophe. Perhaps, we can even get a Clinton Legal Care Task Force composed of doctors to come up with the legal policies. Just think of the possibilities!
Scott O. Guthrie is a member of the Class of 1999 at East Tennessee State University’s James H. Quillen College of Medicine.
Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 1997;2(4):143-144. Copyright © 1997 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).