Current developments on the national scene: gift card attorney's fees and bloated wallets for doctors
There were two interesting reports in this week's news. In the first, a Los Angeles County judge was disciplined by a State Commission. Aggravated by the terms of a settlement in a class action case against a chain of retail stores, the judge ordered that the attorneys be paid a fee of $125,000.00 in $10.00 gift cards--just like the consumer plaintiffs the attorney represented in the settlement. The judge justified his decision by noting that if the customers had to buy something to take advantage of the settlement, it was fair and reasonable to structure the attorney's fees in the same manner.
We're sure the attorneys had earned their fee, however, they cannot be surprised when a jurist or the general public expresses frustration and dismay with lawsuits that appear to benefit only the lawyer.
Meanwhile, in the medical field, where there are real dollars at work, Christ Hospital in Cincinnati and the federal government reportedly reached a settlement in a lawsuit accusing the hospital of defrauding federal health-care programs. Apparently--or should we say--allegedly, between 1999 and 2004 the hospital allocated lab time to cardiologists for non-invasive heart procedures based on the lab revenues the doctors generated for the hospital through the cath lab in prior years. According to a "whistleblowing" cardiologist, Harry Fry, the Hospital risked potential liability of as much as $424 million dollars by paying incentives to encourage cardiologists to schedule more procedures in the lab.
It is stories like this that explain why our health care crisis will never be solved without addressing pure "fee for service" medicine: as a recent investigation by a prominent surgeon recognized: doctors are being trained to "leave no dollar on the table," in a culture that rewards procedures rather than outcomes.