Banks County Opinions...

JULY 21, 2004


By:Phillip Sartain
The Banks County News
July 21, 2004

Don’t be stupid if you can help it
Lately, I’ve noticed that a lot of subtle things happen to guys over the course of a marriage. Some of them are physical changes and some of them are mental. Most of them are simply annoying. But others are more serious, like contracting S.T.U.P.I.D.
Certain physical changes are inevitable. Waking up one morning and being unable to click through all 128 channels with the television remote control due to a sudden touch of arthritis in the trigger finger can be devastating. But it happens.
On the mental side, most men will sooner or later end up staring at their closet one day realizing that their wife has gained complete and absolute control over their wardrobe. Numbed by the myriad of possible color combinations, most of us stand there with our mouths open until our spouse happens by to pick out our clothes for us.
But by far the most unnerving change for any man is when he contracts S.T.U.P.I.D. I didn’t even know what S.T.U.P.I.D. was until I saw a magazine article in last month’s Women Rule The World Trends. According to the article, S.T.U.P.I.D. stands for Short Term Unexplained Present-giving Information Deficit. In other words, it occurs when men no longer have the ability to keep up with gift giving and/or gift receiving.
The article explained that it usually begins at around the age of 12 in boys, but does not fully manifest itself until the 30-40 age range. Interestingly, it’s considered to be a part of a larger constellation of Male Flaw Disorders, wherein men mature, but never grow up.
As I understand it, women are born with a Gifting Recall gene. If men have one, it’s clearly recessive. Based on same, my wife has the extraordinary ability to record, reference, cross reference, assimilate, index, code and permanently imprint every single gift given or received within a 100 mile radius during an infinite time span. And she is able to update the data bank instantaneously.
As for myself, I typically just float in a general and oblique way to see if I can “fake it” during the recounting of some previous gift exchange scenario with my wife. And that worked well enough until I was asked a point blank question last week, “Who gave you that shirt you’re wearing?”
That’s when my brain went into a spasm as I tried to formulate an acceptable response. Was it a trick question? Did she give it to me? Or did her mother? Or, did I accidentally steal it one day while browsing for fishing lures at a yard sale?
The underlying problem had to do with the fact that the memory of getting the shirt had long since been wiped clean from my limited memory banks. Men apparently have an Instant Information Erasure gene. That gene is recessive in women.
As such, it was a dangerous guessing game on my part, with literally hundreds of wrong answers. The failure to give the correct answer would merely confirm the overall suspicion that all men are totally insensitive, and of course, flawed.
That being so, the only real option I had was to collapse on the floor due to the intense pain in my arthritic trigger finger and beg to be rushed to the hospital. It was well worth the ER bill.
In the end, there is an obvious disparity in brain function at work here. In other words, I’m S.T.U.P.I.D. But now that I know I’m S.T.U.P.I.D., I’m able to live with that knowledge.
That’s probably what annoys my wife the most — I have S.T.U.P.I.D. and I don’t care, which is actually just a part of being plain stupid. And that may be another gender based column topic to write about some day. But I’m not that stupid, yet.
Phillip Sartain is an attorney in Gainesville.

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By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
July 21, 2004

Tort reform
Last weekend, I sat down and turned on the TV, stopping to watch what I believed was one of those reality medical shows, but what turned out to be a call for help by the American Medical Association on behalf of Georgia doctors. It wasn’t much more than an infomercial airing on PAX, but it wasn’t asking for money, the infomercial was asking for voters to contact their representatives to get tort reform passed before the medical crisis in Georgia gets worse.
In the past, I’ve argued that a person’s worth should not be capped because I feel that all life is priceless. The U.S. courts agree with me and there is no cap on the amount of money awarded a victim in a malpractice case. Before last weekend, I believed that no limits on non-economic settlements would force doctors making errors out of business and the medical profession would be better for it. In my scenario, good doctors would still be able to practice because they had made no errors so their insurance rates would not rise. But this is just not true. In truth, the malpractice industry is a vicious cycle, robbing people of their doctors and their money.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ report on March 3, 2003, litigation costs and malpractice payoffs raise malpractice premiums for all doctors which raise health care costs and premiums for health insurance (paid either by the individual or the individuals’ company thus reducing take-home pay) and raise taxes. In the same report, the department reports that setting reasonable limits on non-economic damages would reduce the amount of taxpayer’s money the federal government spends by $28.1-$50.6 billion per year. Bush urged Congress to pass medical liability reform in his 2004 State of the Union Address and the House did, but the measure stalled in the Senate. Chambliss voted for the measure and Miller did not vote.
The problem needs decisive action as soon as the Senate is back in session. It’s only getting worse. The median medical liability jury award was $1 million in 2001, up 43 percent from 1999. The largest award of $131.7 million was more than twice as large as the largest award in 2000, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Between 1996 and 1999, the average jury award in medical liability cases jumped 76 percent. Insurance companies are in the insurance business to turn a profit. Large awards have prompted them to raise rates by as much as 500 percent in the last five years. Georgia is one of 12 states named by the American Medical Association for being difficult for Georgia doctors to find affordable insurance. Less than 10 insurers write malpractice insurance in Georgia, according to John Oxendine’s office. Georgia doctors are answering by retiring early, leaving the state to practice in states with state tort reform where rates are much lower, or leaving medicine for another field.
In fact, a general surgeon who practiced for 12 years at BJC Medical Center left his job to become a kindergarten teacher because of malpractice rate increases.
Other doctors, especially obstetricians (OBs), are choosing to no longer perform high-risk procedures. Because of exorbitant rates, there are no longer any practicing female OBs in Hall County, those doctors that did exist no longer deliver babies. And in other parts of Georgia, women have to drive more than three hours to find an OB. The medical colleges in Georgia report that they cannot fill their spaces for OB doctors because of the high rates for malpractice insurance. And of all Georgia medical school graduates, more than half leave the state to practice in states where state tort reform exists. As we lose our doctors, we also lose jobs: the medical profession is a large employer and high insurance rates discourage big business from coming to Georgia.
Non-economic tort reform is what needs to be passed in the U.S. Senate. If passed, patients will recover 100 percent of their medical costs and lost wages in any award, but the non-economic damages would be limited. Senator’s email addresses are standard: (i.e. I think that non-economic damages need to be weighed against what no limits on non-economic damages cost all of us.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.
The Banks County News
Homer, Georgia
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