Monday, June 30, 2008

Aultman and Mercy Hospital Lawsuit....And Hypocrisy (Click On The Title Of This Post To Read Article)

Mercy Medical and Aultman Hospital are currently suing the pants off of each other in a big local lawsuit. Mercy claims that Aultman illegally set up a scheme to pay local insurance agents secret bonuses to steer businesses and individuals to buy AultCare Insurance, which is apparently owned by Aultman. Mercy claims that this secret kickback scheme created a "monopoly" that cut into Mercy's market share of potential patients, and therefore its bottom line.

Aultman has fired back, countersuing Mercy for corporate slander, defamation, "unfair trade practices," and has labeled Mercy's claims "extortion."

Who knows who's right or wrong in this one. But here's where a HUGE spotlight of hypocrisy shines on these lawsuits. First, these hospitals can sue each other for MILLIONS, and there are NO CAPS OR LIMITS on what they can recover from a jury. For example, if a jury returns a verdict for Mercy or Aultman for $50 million, that's what either hospital can potentially recover. No problem with that: if that is what a local jury concludes, and the evidence supports the verdict, that is why we have a constitutional right to trial by jury.

However, if either hospital injures YOU after a negligent medical error, and you bring a lawsuit, your pain and suffering is reduced to $250,000 for life, even if a jury values your misery at $300,000, or $3 million. Why? Because the "tort reform" laws that limit compensation APPLY ONLY TO YOU. All those caps and limits do not apply to business lawsuits like this one. So, tort reform is a one way street--it limits THE AMOUNT OF MONEY YOU CAN RECOVER BUT NOT THE AMOUNT BUSINESSES LIKE HOSPITALS CAN RECOVER.

Second, hospitals like Aultman lobbied heavily for tort and medical liability "reforms" before The Ohio Legislature passed them in 2003. Below is a quote from testimony Aultman Health Foundation VP Tim Teynor gave to The Ohio Legislature:

Employers more than ever need to be free to offer flexible health benefit systems. We must be careful to avoid increasing the cost burden on employers and employees due to new coverage mandates and increased liability.

From a providers point of view, the legislature could help restrain rising medical costs by passing several pending tort reform bills, including:

• Senate bill 120 - would make liability proportional to a defendant's degree or fault or responsibility.
• Senate bill 179 - would modernize ohio's peer review statute.
• Senate bill 281 - would cap non-economic damages for pain and suffering in malpractice lawsuits.

(To read Mr.Teynor's full testimony, go to

If capping YOUR compensation after a preventable hospital error is supposed to keep health care and insurance costs down, what do you think a multimillion dollar lawsuit and hospital legal wars over insurance market share does to health care costs? Does it bring the cost of health care down?

Perhaps now you know why I used the term "hypocrisy" in the title of this post. See how these reforms work? In the name of holding down health care costs, your rights are limited, but when it comes to businesses like hospitals hiring armies of lawyers to sue each other for millions, there are no limits. Just another example of average citizens not getting a level playing field when it comes to making businesses like hospitals accountable for their mistakes. And make no mistake about it, this lawsuit proves that running a hospital and churning patients is all business.......

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