WHILE a legislator trolled for attention at a state Capitol rally this week, the nursing home industry and a “watchdog” group battled it out over the standard of long-term care in Oklahoma.
State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, tried unsuccessfully to get an interim legislative study on nursing home care. On Wednesday, he staged a Capitol rally linked to a report by Families for Better Care, which gave 11 states (including Oklahoma) a failing grade for standards of care. Perhaps it was the late summer heat, but the rally drew only two dozen or so people.
This all took place while the Legislature began considering a lawsuit reform package. Not coincidentally, Families for Better Care is a front group for trial lawyers who troll the nursing homes in search of plaintiffs. The group's leader is Steven J. Vancore, who was formerly with the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers. A nursing home industry spokeswoman said the report card on which Oklahoma got an F was “funded by trial lawyers who want to sue nursing homes.”
We won't make the case that nursing home care in Oklahoma is optimum. But as we noted last month, when Morrissette was also showboating about this issue, a prime reason is the low rates paid to nursing homes by Medicaid, which covers the costs of most Oklahoma nursing home residents.
Lawsuits likely won't help improve the standard of care. Higher rates might. Lawsuit reform will hurt trial lawyers. We just wish they'd be honest and not hide behind labels such as “Families for Better Care.”
Staying in touch
U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas was in Enid, Medford and Cherokee on Wednesday for town hall meetings. Thursday's schedule had him in Ponca City, Blackwell and Perry. Such a full calendar is the norm for Lucas, R-Cheyenne, when he's home from Washington. As The Oklahoman's Chris Casteel put it, Lucas “probably holds some record for town hall meetings held in his career.” Elected to Congress in 1994, Lucas makes it a point to regularly travel across his sprawling district. His Sooner State colleagues do the same. The newspaper Roll Call, which reports on Capitol Hill, said Oklahoma's delegation held 56 town hall meetings during August. That was more than any delegation from any state — quite a feat considering Oklahoma's delegation totals just seven members, and one of them (Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa) didn't hold any such meetings that month. One complaint about Washington politicians is that they're out of touch with ordinary Americans. Oklahoma's delegation seems intent on not letting that happen to them.
In the ‘Crossfire'
We had a good chuckle reading USA Today columnist Rem Rieder's lament that CNN is bringing back “Crossfire” this month. Rieder is troubled that yet another show pitting conservatives against liberals will only add more cacophony to “today's hopelessly polarized and paralyzed politics.” CNN has been in a ratings struggle against Fox and MSNBC, which load their schedules with cross-firing panelists. What made us chuckle is that cable news isn't the biggest contributor to polarization these days. That “honor” goes to Barack Obama, the most polarizing president in memory — which is saying a lot, given his two predecessors. While it's not CNN's job to unite Americans, it certainly is the job of a president to try to do so. Obama does the opposite in fueling division and class envy. Much of what the “Crossfire” panelists are likely to discuss is Obama's style of governance, which indeed is “hopelessly polarized.”
How times change
The Legislature reconvened in special session this week to pass a 2009 lawsuit reform law for a second time. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the 2009 law contained more than one subject and was therefore unconstitutional, so lawmakers are now passing the same law again, but this time broken into multiple bills. House Democratic Leader Scott Inman of Del City decries the bills as “special interest, special legislation.” Senate Democratic Leader Sean Burrage of Claremore wrote in an op-ed that the special session meant lawmakers were “going to spend $200,000, or more, to protect doctors from lawyers.” Their comments are interesting, especially given that both men voted for the 2009 law. What should Oklahomans conclude? Apparently, Democrats have no problem supporting “special interest, special legislation” — but only so long as it passes in regular session, not special session.
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