Monday, November 30, 2009

The Health Care Blues: The Lawyers' Full Employment Act of 2010

Thanksgiving’s over; Congress is back in session, facing the turkey of “healthcare reform.” It’s not going away; something will pass, hopefully digestible to the voters.

You can’t square a circle, or is it you can’t circle a square? The four irreconcilable legs of the health care plan are abortion, costs, public option, and undocumented immigrants.

The final bill can be prolife or prochoice, but not both. Either way, it will lose votes.

The costs of these proposals will, like all major entitlements to date, grossly exceed the estimates, which is why states like Tennessee abandoned their universal health plans. The plans can only be financed through substantial, job killing tax increases.

Public option is a code word for a single payer (government). It will over time displace the private market.

The current plans exclude undocumented immigrants. Regardless of the merits of granting legal residence, any inclusion will bankrupt the plan. The Obama Administration intends to reintroduce a version of the McCain-Kennedy Immigration Reform Bill that will grant legal status to current residents and their extended family members.

The House Bill is but a scant 1990 pages and the Senate Bill an even more prodigious 2,094 pages. Let loose the lawyers. The final bill will probably be even longer. The legislators have not read the bills they voted on, but lawyers will with an electron microscope.

The profession needs the boost - trial lawyers, defense lawyers, insurance lawyers, tax lawyers, administrative specialists, appellate lawyers, bureaucrats, doesn’t matter! We all need the business. Let law schools open up health reform/universal access clinics, and the lawyers will follow. My job is secure.

A common refrain during the 1970’s and 1980’s was that every major environmental statute Congress enacted, be it CWA, CAA, NEPA, CERCLA, RCRA, or TSCA, should be labeled “The Lawyers Full Employment Act of ---.” These statutes unleashed a horde of regulators and regulations, citizen suits, and especially billable hours.

The House bill will create 111 new agencies, boards, and panels while the Senate Bill imposes a seemingly infinite number of new taxes, in addition to those in the House bill. These bills exceed anything Kafka could have imagined in his worst nightmares. Machiavelli should be proud. The longer the statute, the more likely it will contain incomprehensible and contradictory language.

Only judges and lawyers can straighten out the legislative morass. Lawyers represent clients. The attorney’s professional duty is to find gaps or craft loopholes in the statute, just as tax lawyers do now.

If a camel has been defined as “a horse designed by a committee,” then imagine what a bill drafted by 5 House and 3 Senate committees, and then massaged through a joint conference committee, will look like.

Any prolix statute of 100 pages is perforce a billing opportunity for lawyers. Multiply that 10 fold, and we have a Congressional Christian/Chanukah present to the legal profession. Hand out the Holiday bonuses!

We in legal education should applaud Congress, make that a standing ovation. Too many law schools currently graduate too many lawyers too deeply in debt for too few jobs. The employment market for new attorneys has shriveled in the current economic climate.

Congress has shown the way. An armada of attorneys will be unleashed just to staff the new bureaucracies. An epidemic of lawyers will spread through America like the H₁N. Even more will litigate and appeal the interpretations and enforcement of the new health regime.

Forget the doctors. We will be populated with lawyers, billable hours, retainers, and contingency fees. The California Bar Association lists 222,595 lawyers licensed in the state, while the California Medical Board lists 127,436 medical licenses. America has over 1.2 million lawyers today compared to 750,000 doctors. The differential shall increase in our litigious society.

Congress is creating a national need for more lawyers.

Happy New Year.

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