Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Matt Bevin was not my first choice. But I have no doubt that he would be a much better governor than Jack Conway. At last week's Jefferson County Lincoln Day Dinner, Bevin gave an outstanding speech. Amidst a group of strong speeches, he stood out. Apparently he did that at Lincoln Day dinners across the state.
Bevin was a much-improved candidate this time, compared to his run against Mitch McConnell. Whoever has been coaching him has added a polish and discipline that was not there previously. He is telegenic and articulate. I like what he says on the issues.
Many of us feel like we don't know Matt Bevin. And yet when I see his family, I can't help but smile. It takes a certain selflessness to adopt that many kid; I know at least that much about him, and it's a good start.
I am really excited about Bevin's running mate, Janeen Hampton, What a compelling life story. She illustrates how conservative principals empower people to escape poverty. She gave a great speech last night and I look forward to hearing much more from her.
Here's my unsolicited advice for Bevin. Having chosen to become the standard-bearer for the Kentucky Republican Party, Bevin would be well-served to show some respect to the man who made Kentucky a two-party state: Mitch McConnell. Bevin's willingness to do that will determine whether McConnell Republicans merely vote for him or go further -- write checks and walk precincts. It's time for a McConnell-Bevin Bourbon Summit.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
This illustrates why it was so important for Kentucky to reelect Mitch McConnell. I have a client whose business is heavily dependent on Medicare reimbursement. Recent federal legislation to fix the rates for physicians had the unintended effect of delaying reimbursement for my client. As the delay dragged on, the cash flow for his business dried up to the point that he could not meet payroll. He was going to have to close his business. Two hundred jobs in a very poor part of the state were jeopardized,
My client reached out to McConnell's office and within two days, a high-ranking official from CMS had called in response. The situation has now been resolved.
Any U.S. Senator would have tried to help a constituent in this manner. The fact that Kentucky's U.S. Senator is Majority Leader, however, allowed my client to get the relief he needed in two days. When was the last time you heard of anything getting done that fast in Washington?
McConnell's seniority saved two hundred Kentuckians from losing their jobs. We are so, so fortunate to have Mitch as our senator.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Allison Ball has my enthusiastic support for the Republican nomination for State Treasurer -- and has since she announced last year.
I first met Allison at a Women For Team Mitch event during the Senate primary. She gave an outstanding speech. Allison is soft-spoken and petite, so it is startling to hear her speak in public: she is a firebrand, bare-knuckled conservative.
I have kept in touch with Allison at Federalist Society events. She is so committed to the ideals of the Federalist Society that she has traveled from Prestonsburg to Louisville just to make our luncheon events. (For any non-lawyers who aren't aware, the Federalist Society promotes limited government, rule of law and personal responsibility.)
Allison's hard work in the party is such that at the Jefferson County Lincoln Day dinner the other night, Allison got the biggest round of applause -- even though she's from the other end of the state. She is well-known and well-liked among active Republicans, which is why she should win the primary handily.
I am grateful for her willingness to serve and see State Treasurer as the first of many positions of public service she will hold in the Commonwealth.
Friday, May 15, 2015
Last night all four candidates for the Republican nomination for governor made their "closing arguments" at the Jefferson County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner.
Each of these candidates gave good speeches. Based on audience reaction, it appears that Heiner had the edge among this crowd, followed by Comer.
Bevin is a much more polished speaker this time around. However, his refusal to unequivocally endorse Sen. McConnell caused many to react to his remarks with stony silence.
Will T. Scott went last. He proved as colorful expected. He coupled a great sense of humor with substance. It's unfortunate he doesn't have the resources to be more than a spoiler in this campaign. Frankly, I don't understand what he is doing. He is not going to win. Not gonna happen. He's just creating a situation that subjects the party to the risk of nominating a candidate who is so badly damaged (Comer) or unpredictable (Bevin) as to ensure that we do not win the general election.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
The Courier-Journal has graciously given permission to me to reprint my C-J columns in full here. I've had a request for this one on Medical Review Panels, so here it is.
As the current legislative session draws to a close, the Kentucky House, controlled by the Democrats, remains the place where good ideas go to die. The latest example (one of many) is Medical Review Panels (MRPs). Republicans passed legislation to create MRPs in the Senate, but if that bill even makes it to a vote on the House floor, its defeat is certain — just another consequence of Republicans failing to flip the House last November.
Here’s how the legislation would work.
Anyone who felt that he or she (or a deceased family member) was the victim of medical malpractice would file a claim to the MRP, before that claim could be filed in court. The patient and medical provider would each nominate a physician to serve on the panel, and those two would nominate a third. The MRP would have 6 months to review the claim and rule on whether the medical provider — doctor, nurse, nursing home or whoever — violated the standard of care. The MRP ruling would be admissible in court but non-binding.
The part that the trial lawyers gloss over: If the patient does not agree with the MRP ruling, he or she can still go to court and sue the provider. MRPs do not “close the courthouse door” on injured plaintiffs. Indeed, the statute of limitations would be tolled during the MRP process.
The point of MRPs is to quickly sort valid claims from frivolous ones. This is good for both plaintiff victims and defendant health care providers. Litigation is stressful and time-consuming for both sides of a suit. It is not uncommon for a case to take several years before it gets to a jury.
Victims should be compensated if a medical provider was negligent, that is, did not act the way a reasonable medical provider in the same circumstances would have acted, resulting in injury. MRPs provide a path for victims to be compensated in months, rather than years. And because of the streamlined process before a panel of three doctors — essentially experts — the victim should be able to keep a higher percentage than he would with the typical contingency fee case, where a trial lawyer has to hire expensive expert witnesses to testify at trial.
Most medical malpractice cases that go to a jury result in the plaintiff losing. If a plaintiff is going to lose eventually, far better to find out sooner rather than later. That allows the plaintiff to move on and saves the judicial waste of a needless jury trial.
On the other hand, if the MRP finds that a health care provider violated the standard of care, that reality check counsels the provider and insurance carrier to settle, quickly. The faster the settlement, the less money that is expended on needless defense costs. And the sooner the victim is compensated.
But parties to potential malpractice actions aren’t the only ones who could benefit from sorting valid from frivolous claims. Fear of being sued causes doctors to practice defensive medicine, running needless tests out of an overabundance of caution. High patient deductibles and co-pays have made patients more cost-conscious: unnecessary tests now come out of our pockets. All patients therefore have a stake in seeing MRPs enacted.
Without a mechanism like MRPs, the high cost of litigation leads insurers of health care providers to settle just to save the cost and uncertainty of going to trial; even frivolous claims are expensive to defend. That translates into higher insurance premiums for doctors, which in turn drives up health care costs for all of us.
Malpractice insurance premiums, moreover, are an important factor in recruiting and retaining doctors to practice in Kentucky. We already have a shortage of physicians here, exacerbated by Gov. Steve Beshear’s expansion of Medicaid. That means longer wait times for all of us to get in to see our doctors.
Kentucky has a physician shortage in 47 counties. Sadly, these counties tend to have the highest percentage of chronically ill citizens. Further, Kentucky’s doctors are retiring faster than they can be replaced by graduates from local medical schools; the shortage will get worse. Anything we can do to stabilize malpractice insurance gives us a competitive advantage in recruiting young doctors to relocate here from out of state.
This will become particularly important when the two Ohio River bridges are completed, because Indiana has enacted MRP legislation. It is about to become much more convenient for a health care provider who wants to live in Louisville but work in Indiana to save on malpractice premiums.
MRPs are just one more example of where Kentucky is falling behind neighboring states with which we compete. Those out-of-state lawyers advertising on buses and billboards cannot vote in Kentucky. But they can and do donate to Democrat candidates for state representative.
I tweeted this on the EIBKY feed but it show up on the blog, so here's my Courier-Journal column in which I explain why I have chosen to support Hal Heiner.
Here's an excerpt:
Three of the four candidates seem pretty bright. However, Heiner’s intellect is tempered by a humility that will prevent him from governing reactively. He thinks before he speaks and acts — a rare trait in those seeking office. I admire the way he actually listens to people rather than looking over their head for someone more important to chat up.
I appreciate Heiner’s background as a successful businessman who has met a payroll. The notion that he did not truly “create” jobs but simply lured employers to Kentucky is beside the point. A job is a job. To the person cashing the paycheck, it makes no difference how the employer wound up here.
Likewise, the fact that Heiner has a business park in Indiana gives him precisely what our next governor needs: real world experience in understanding how the states surrounding Kentucky are competing with us and winning. I see Heiner as the candidate most likely to provide leadership on issues like tax reform and right to work that Kentucky needs to regain its competitive edge against neighboring states.
Then there is is the issue of school choice. Heiner doesn’t just support the concept of school choice, he has advocated for it relentlessly. We won’t see school choice until Republicans take control of the Kentucky House, but that day is coming. Heiner is best equipped to implement school choice when that occurs.
This will give poor children in failing schools an opportunity for a quality education. The impact that this would have on individuals and our Commonwealth would be transformative. Heiner understands this and will get it done. To that end, Governor Heiner could expand upon Sen. Rand Paul’s outreach to minorities, who are understandably frustrated with the lousy schools that do not equip their children to escape poverty. Eventually, this could lead to Republicans becoming the majority party in Kentucky. In any event, it is the right thing to do.
There is also the issue of temperament. Heiner comports himself with dignity. He demonstrates maturity of judgment. That’s why I trust him to not embarrass Kentucky. He doesn't frequent the cockfighting circuit. I want a governor who won’t elicit headlines that make us wince. And I want a governor who won’t use the office as a springboard to another office.
I appreciate Heiner’s loyalty to the Republican party; I have no doubt he supported Mitch McConnell in the last election. Note that no one asks him this.
Friday, April 24, 2015
Pam Platt will serve her last day as Editorial Director for the Courier-Journal next Friday. Pam recruited me last year to write my column that has appeared every third Wednesday this past year.
I was dubious about writing for the C-J when Pam first called. My politics, after all, are considerably to the right of Pam and the C-J. I didn't think I'd last beyond the first column.
Pam and I met and she assured me that so long as I (1) disclosed conflicts of interest and (2) understood that I would not be the paper's ombudsmen -- that it was not my job to offer constructive criticism of the paper-- then I could write about whatever I wanted, taking any position I wanted.
She honored her word. Even though some of my columns drew progressive outrage, Pam never tried to tone me down. She never changed more than correct a typo.
She was always gracious and accommodating. I am sad that she is leaving and wish her all the best.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Hal Heiner has been driving around the state for more than a year. I thought he was nuts to start his campaign early, but it is paying off. Not only in terms of the polls: Heiner is a much-improved candidate compared to when he ran for Mayor of Louisville a few years back.
Heiner's speaking is more charismatic. He has the proverbial fire in the belly, that was so lacking before. I also notice a difference in him as a retail politician. He seems much more comfortable making small talk with strangers than before.
He is the same smart, humble and creative man who almost became Mayor, just a much better politician.
I went to a fundraiser for Heiner recently; it was packed -- so crowded that a woman fainted, a la Obama. I knew only one person, and he was not someone I usually run into at fundraisers. The rest of the crowd did even look familiar. Heiner's primary is drawing in people beyond the usual party activists. That's good for him, and certainly good for the party.