Meet the Puppeteers Behind the Patient Compensation Act

January 27, 2014 7:25 am

by Jon Richards · 34 comments

Last week, Peach Pundit featured posts supporting and opposing Senate Bill 141, the Patient Injury Act. In a nutshell, the proposed legislation would attempt to reform the way medical malpractice litigation is handled in Georgia. Instead of a jury trial, a new Patient Compensation System and an accompanying Patient Compensation Board would determine payouts when a doctor makes a mistake.

This post isn’t going to debate the pros and cons of the legislation. Instead, it will document how money and influence are trying to get the bill passed.

Because the Patient Injury Act, also known as the Patient Compensation Act, affects several high-powered groups, including doctors, trial lawyers and insurance companies, there is lots of behind the scenes activity going on.

Let’s start with an organization known as Patients for Fair Compensation. This nonpartisan Section 501(c)(4) group appears to be the brains behind the Patient Injury Act. Their website features a section describing the effort to implement a patients’ compensation system in Georgia.

Who runs Patients for Fair Compensation? Its chairman is Richard L. Jackson, the Chair and CEO of Alpharetta based Jackson Healthcare. The company provides temporary staffing, including physicians and other allied health professionals, to hospitals. Mr. Jackson is also on the Board of Directors of the Georgia Department of Community Health and the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

In addition to Patients for Fair Compensation, there are at least two other websites supporting SB 141. Georgia’s Patients Compensation System claims to be run by ‘Taxpayers for a Healthy Georgia.’ On the site, they are described as “a grassroots organization committed to replacing our broken health care system, lowering costs for patients and ensuring timely compensation for injured patients.”

Another site, Doctors for A Healthy Georgia, also touts the benefits of the plan proposed by Patients for Fair Compensation. It features testimonials from Georgia physicians about the plan’s benefits, and urges visitors to call the state legislature and the Medical Association of Georgia to register their support.

The domains fixmyhealthcare.com and ahealthygeorgia.com are registered to The Stoneridge Group, an Alpharetta firm known for running digital and direct mail campaigns for Republican candidates.

Last week, some Georgia residents received glossy mailers promoting Senate Bill 141, and urging the recipient to call their State Senator to find out where he or she stands on the bill. The mailer tells the reader to “learn more at fixmyhealthcare.com,” and includes a tear-off business reply postcard for the recipient to send their contact information to Taxpayers for a Healthy Georgia. The postcard is addressed to a Gainesville post office box.

And where did the mailer come from? The return address is 2655 Northwinds Parkway in Alpharetta. And at that address you will find the headquarters of Jackson Healthcare.

Target: Senator Josh McKoon

Josh McKoon represents Senate District 29, which runs along the western border of Georgia, from LaGrange south to Columbus. He is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and has his own law practice, Crowley McKoon.

On January 22nd, Patients for Fair Compensation sponsored a radio advertisement promoting the Patient Injury Act. It aired in the Columbus market. The spot claims Senator McKoon wasn’t supporting the bill because he is a personal injury lawyer who wants to protect his fellow attorneys and the insurance companies. From the ad:

What type of Republican would put personal injury lawyers ahead of these conservative reforms?
State Senator Josh McKoon. Because Josh McKoon is a personal injury lawyer.

It’s a sad day when Josh McKoon puts personal injury lawyers and greedy insurance companies before you.

You can listen to it below.

McKoon MailerSenator McKoon responded by sending an email to his campaign supporters, explaining why he felt he couldn’t support the bill. He also posted his position on Facebook.

Over the weekend of January 25th, residents of District 29 opened their mailboxes to find this mailer, which says:

Josh McKoon funded his campaign with thousands of dollar [sic] from the trial lawyers and liberal special interests. Now he opposes the Patients’ Compensation Act — which lowers healthcare costs by getting lawyers out of medicine.

That’s just WRONG. We can’t afford a Senator who puts the interests of trial lawyers above those of Georgia families.

While no sponsoring organization or website is listed on the McKoon mailer, the Northwinds Parkway return address matches that of the other mailers–Jackson Healthcare.

Ad in Columbus PaperThe Sunday, January 26th edition of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer contains a full page ad paid for by Patients for Fair Compensation. It targets Senator McKoon. The ad claims:

Senator McKoon is working to stop legislation that would reform the medical liability system, lower healthcare costs, and stop frivolous malpractice lawsuits in Georgia.

Why would so-called conservative Senator Josh McKoon oppose this legislation? Greed.

Click the image at right to view a larger version of the ad.

Why target Senator McKoon with a radio ad, a mail piece and a full page newspaper ad? The committee he chairs doesn’t have initial jurisdiction over the Patient Injury Act. Could it be because he was one of the first to speak out against it?

State Rep. John Pezold, whose District 133 shares many of the same constituents as McKoon’s, took to Facebook to complain.

Apparently one of the few people actually supporting this bill is the guy who stands to make the most cash if it passes…the same guy who (you guessed it), has shelled out money for radio ads and mailers attempting to sully Josh’s reputation. Don’t fall for this garbage.

He also expressed his frustration on Twitter.

The 60 Plus Association Gets Involved

Another organization appears to be working to steer Senate Bill 141 towards passage. Last fall, the 60 Plus Association began a campaign to get state lawmakers to go on the record in opposition to trial lawyers. The association sent a letter to Georgia Representatives and Senators, asking them to sign a pledge “affirming your opposition to policy goals of the Trial Lawyers,” and promising to publicize the results.

The Sunday January 19th Gwinnett Daily Post featured a full page advertisement with color pictures of President Obama and Senate President Pro-Tem David Shafer, claiming both took money from trial lawyers. Other legislators, including House Speaker David Ralston, were mentioned in similar ads, all paid for by the 60 Plus Association.

The 60 Plus Association was formed in 1992, and is a non-partisan seniors advocacy group, according to its website. They claim they are the conservative alternative to the AARP. Yet, some of the legislators who are the targets of the anti-trial lawyer ads think there might be a link between those supporting Senate Bill 141 and the campaign by 60Plus.

Despite the similar tactics of opposing the interests of trial lawyers, there appears to be no visible connection between 60 Plus and Patients for Fair Compensation.

Who Is Really Pulling the Strings?

Why are Richard Jackson and Jackson Healthcare so interested in reforming the way medical malpractice suits are handled? As mentioned above, the company is in the business of providing doctors and other health professionals to hospitals on a temporary basis. One possible reason is because when a malpractice suit is filed, plaintiffs cast as wide a net as they can, including the hospital, the doctors, the nurses, and more as defendants, depending on the nature of the case. When one of the team members is a temp, he or she tends to get blamed, and that could be the reason to push for changes that would lower damages from malpractice suits.

The Jacksons have also been making political contributions. On October 2nd, Richard Jackson and R. Shane Jackson each maxed out their contributions to Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, with $6,300 for the primary election, and $6,300 for the general election. Chad Jackson contributed $1,000 to Cagle’s campaign.

One week later, on October 9th, Richard Jackson contributed the maximum of $2,500 to both the primary and runoff campaigns of Senator Brandon Beach. Shane Jackson and Chad Jackson each gave $2,500 towards Beach’s Primary campaign. Senator Beach, by the way, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 141.

On October 13th, Richard, Shane and Chad Jackson each contributed $12,600 to Governor Nathan Deal’s campaign — $6,300 for the primary and $6,300 for the general election. And on October 16th, Richard Jackson contributed the maximum $6,300 to Attorney General Sam Olens’ primary campaign.

The total? $80,300 from people employed by Jackson Healthcare and its affiliates. According to the Ethics Commission website, the only political contribution by any one of these three people prior to October 2013 was a $250 contribution made by Shane Jackson to Beach’s campaign in 2010.

Richard Jackson is also sponsoring a breakfast with Governor and Mrs. Deal for the Fulton County Republican Party next month.

Everything done by Patients for Fair Compensation, Richard Jackson and Jackson Healthcare, and the 60Plus Association is perfectly legal. People and companies have the right, within the law, to promote their interests.

But, it’s equally important for voters and elected officials to understand who is really pulling the strings. And, with its ads blaming trial lawyers and greedy insurance companies for the lack of progress on Senate Bill 141, it appears there is one special interest that really, really wants to get that piece of legislation passed.

@johnpezold January 27, 2014 at 7:38 am

Meet the Puppeteers Behind the Patient Compensation Act — Peach Pundit http://t.co/sh9jitH75w

saltycracker January 27, 2014 at 8:00 am

Whatever profile is to be used to select a Patient Compensation Board could be used to define a jury selection pool.

GB101 January 27, 2014 at 8:04 am

Some reputable lobbyists are representing Jackson. His tactics are very unsavory. I wonder if, at some point, the legislators being unfairly attacked by Jackson are going to have a sit down with his lobbyists and tell them that if he keeps this up, and if they keep representing him, there may be some repercussions for them and their other clients.

Thomas Adams (@GeorgiaCRE) January 27, 2014 at 8:28 am

Meet the Puppeteers Behind the Patient Compensation Act – Last week, Peach Pundit featured posts supporting and op… http://t.co/lsVmTdfz6n

Charlie Harper (@IcarusPundit) January 27, 2014 at 9:39 am

#gapol RT @2gstrategies: From @peachpundit Meet the Puppeteers Behind the Patient Compensation Act http://t.co/Ydj6D6qe3F

Ron McClellan January 27, 2014 at 9:49 am

I’ll also point out that on this PACs IRS Form 990, for 2011, the last one filed prior to their recent activity that isn’t available online yet, the Board, CEO, CFO, etc, listed for this PAC is comprised entirely of employees and officers of the Jackson Group, and in 2011 had total monetary resources of more than 800, 000 dollars.

Textbook fatcat dirty politics.

debbie0040 January 27, 2014 at 10:07 am

I am supporting this bill very strongly so go ahead and attack me now. I am amazed at this post and take great offense at the one sided aspect of it. . What about mentioning the trial lawyers and who they donate to and the fact they want to maintain the status quo? The trial lawyers have a vested financial interest in keeping the system as is with no tort reform or other reform. How about the fact the trial lawyers donate very heavy to Democrats and supported Obamacare? None of that was mentioned. Just a hit piece on a fine man like Rick Jackson and those that support this bill.

This article just escalated my involvement…

southernpol January 27, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Think you missed the point Debbie.. entirely.

Richard Jackson, good man or not (never met him or heard of him prior to this), authorized these attack pieces on Sen. McKoon.

Being his area of employment or not — McKoon has done nothing to lose our trust.

I’m standing with Josh on this. Because Richard Jackson went about this the wrong way. Is it good policy? I haven’t the slightest idea. But I won’t support this given the way he is going about it.

Lo Mein January 27, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Debbie Dooley supports this?

Good enough for me. Almost everything that fake “conservative” supports turns out to be not conservative at all. I hereby declare my opposition to it, and I’ve not even read it. Hey, now I can be a Congressman!

Romegaguy January 27, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Let me ask the most obvious question: Debbie how much has your organization received from Mr. Jackson to support his bill that isnt going anywhere?

Ellynn January 27, 2014 at 10:08 am

The mailer I got was stating my Sen. was for the bill and gave me a website to let the sen know how much I valued his back by sending him an email to thank him. The post mark was Gainsville and it was not his real GA email, and so I pitched it. It was a fancy 5 1/2 x 17 three color glossy that was not printed on the cheep. Made me wonder who had the funds to mail out a gloss this eary in the session telling me my sen. agreed with the bill.

debbie0040 January 27, 2014 at 10:40 am

I am writing an article about this bill . Stay tuned. I will note that for the most part, attorneys are good and some are conservative. When people think of trial lawyers, they think of “ambulance chasers” and attorneys that seek out clients for litigation.
Trial lawyers want to stop any kind of reform because they stand to see an increased in medical malpractice suits under ObamaCare. Obama refused to include any type of tort reform in ObamaCare.

Trial Lawyer Expects Medical Malpractice Claims to Increase Under Obamacare – See more at: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/trial-lawyer-expects-medical-malpractice-claims-increase-under-obamacare#sthash.gCGNEFYi.dpuf

Stefan January 27, 2014 at 10:47 am

Most of the trial lawyers I knew were against Obamacare, for what it’s worth. I would also point out that the entire problem this bill seeks to solve was created, according to their own analysis, by the tort reform that was passed in 2005.

Harry January 27, 2014 at 11:07 am

In what way was the problem created by tort reform?

Stefan January 27, 2014 at 5:37 pm

It raised the costs to bring a lawsuit, and thus made cases with lower damages more difficult to bring.

That’s the problem they claim they are trying to fix (people who were hurt by medical negligence but can’t recover because a lawyer won’t take their case.)

Harry January 27, 2014 at 11:08 am

Debbie, I for one am with you.

barstool69 January 27, 2014 at 11:16 am

“Trial lawyers want to stop any kind of reform because they stand to see an increased in medical malpractice suits under ObamaCare. Obama refused to include any type of tort reform in ObamaCare.”

1) Honest question: why will there be an increase in med mal suits under ObamaCare?

2) I understand you to be a tea party member. Would you care to comment on the apparent irony of your wish for the federal government to step in and do “tort reform” where it has usually been a state exercise?

debbie0040 January 27, 2014 at 11:34 am

I did not wish the federal to step in with ObamaCare. I was pointing out who the trial lawyers are aligned with politically on a national basis.

Posner January 27, 2014 at 11:44 am

“why will there be an increase in med mal suits under ObamaCare” – this has yet to be explained, by anyone. Obamacare impacted federal law, while med mal suits are governed by state law. Further, nobody has yet pointed to any portion of Obamacare that would impact the duty a doctor has to a patient (the breach of this duty being the basic premise of a med mal suit).

A third question: Why is the tea party, or really, any small government conservative, supporting what is essentially a new government entitlement program? I thought we wanted less government, not more? How does creating a system of government run bureaucrats who had out money further that goal? If the tea party really is about “the people,” why aren’t those people (i.e. citizens) good enough to adjudicate med mal claims (on a jury)?

This proposed system is quite literally the antithesis of conservative ideals. It’s shocking how many “conservatives” have been fooled.

debbie0040 January 27, 2014 at 12:58 pm

This is streamlining a process in place with the court systems that will be more responsive to the patient/everyday person. I have an article that will be online this afternoon.
This is not a new entitlement program.

I fully expected trial lawyers to come out against something that effects their bottom line but trial lawyers (again not all lawyers are considered trial lawyers. There are some very good conservative lawyers) are not thought of in a positive light in either tea party or conservative circles..

This bill also has the support of non trial lawyer attorneys..

Doctor Strangelove January 27, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Oh for crysakes.

It’s unconstitutional. Good luck ever getting it through a Federal Court, where it will inevitably end up.

Posner January 27, 2014 at 1:19 pm

“This is not a new entitlement program.”

How so? This meets almost every definition of a liberal entitlement and redistribution of wealth program. (1) it takes money from innocent citizens who just want to continue doing their jobs (in the form of mandatory fees on doctors and nurses, regardless of wrongdoing); (2) it then establishes a “schedule of compensation” to redistribute that money to people who ask for it, based on their alleged “injury.”

This has the potential to be even more of a slush fund than welfare! Heck, even the study commissioned by the Patients for Fair Comp group found that their system would increase claims for medical malpractice in Georgia by 1000%. That’s INSANE.

Harry January 27, 2014 at 1:45 pm

I can’t see how a system that eliminates the trial lawyer middleman’s cut, would increase claims by 1000%. Please explain.

barstool69 January 27, 2014 at 2:03 pm

This new system eliminates attorneys? Interesting. Please explain.

Medmal law in Georgia is just about as defense slanted as it gets. With this new law, every alleged injury becomes compensable.

Harry January 27, 2014 at 4:27 pm

If this proposed legislation is so great for trial lawyers, how come the trial lawyers are opposed?

Posner January 27, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Harry, the bill lowers the standard for receiving compensation from “negligence” (as determined by a jury) to “avoidable injury” (as determined by the government appointed bureaucrats). When you LOWER the threshold for receiving money, more people will line up. This is both common sense, and basic economics.

You can find this basic information on page 6 of the Aon Risk Solutions report that Patients for Fair Compensation paid for and submitted to the Senate subcommittee. The report, which PFC PAID FOR, estimates a 1000% increase in claims for “insignificant injuries” under the proposed system. It estimates a 67% increase in all claims.

So, this new proposed system will increase med mal claims by 67%, will increase frivolous claims by 1000%, but somehow it’s going to save us all money?

GB101 January 28, 2014 at 7:20 am

Are you aware that the defense lawyers are also opposed? And the insurance companies, including the one that is a mutual company, owned by its policy holders, the doctors the company insures? And the Medical Association of Georgia.

J January 28, 2014 at 8:31 am

It seems the only reason given for people supporting this bill is because “trial lawyers oppose it.” I understand people do not like trial lawyers but that cannot be the rallying cry for a bill that takes away your constitutional right of a jury. I do not see any substantial way this will reduce cost or streamline a process.

But for real, please stop all arguments that contain “trial lawyers oppose…” bc it just shows that it is an emotional plea and not based on anything substantive.

johnl January 28, 2014 at 2:07 pm

You do realize that the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) also opposes this bill????
see http://www.georgiahealthnews.com/2013/12/fall-patients-compensation-act/

Trying to hang this on the necks of “trial lawyers” shows that you are either woefully uninformed or just plain silly.

southernpol January 27, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Jon — I wouldn’t declare their actions completely legal yet. This would require a registered independent committee to go after individual Senators like this. I do not see anything registered on the Ethics website under the name they usually use (or anything close). Ethics law requires that the public should be able to know how much was spent targeting which person.

I believe you have to register before spending a certain amount of money. I’m sure they’ve eclipsed that mark. AJC should look into this & question them. Or maybe Debbie knows.

Jon Richards January 27, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Southern – Good point. I seem to remember a similar issue a few years ago when an independent group went after Kevin Kenerly a few years back. Of course, since the targeting only started this week, they may get to wait until the end of the reporting period to document it.

And you’ll notice that I used the parenthetical within the law.

Romegaguy January 27, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Actually the targeting started the first week of the session when they were buying newspaper ads attacking some legislators and saying they were supporting Obamacare or something equally as stupid.

Romegaguy January 27, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Some people burn bridges. Mr. Jackson is burning the whole dang village.

saltycracker January 28, 2014 at 8:23 am

As one concerned with the massive promotional campaign milking every dollar available from a personal injury or disability potential a bill resolves this by establishing a binding arbitration Board ?

So we have two choices of who to give the bigger stick to, the guy on the left or the guy on the right ?

So we trade TV lawyers, complicit healthcare providers and their minions working their “dream pool” jury for big bucks from “the system”……..for a political board that is sure to politically morph into something really out of the people’s eye to spread the wealth ?

Why can’t we put these cases in front of judges and juries that meet some qualification (such as would be on the Board) of being capable of hearing a complicated medical trial ? It just might stick with the people’s rights and the outcome favor the injured party more than the entourage.

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