Monday, November 20, 2017

What The National Review Gets Wrong About The Opiod Crisis And The War On Drugs

via ZeroHedge
Via The Daily Bell

Alright, libertarians, you wanted drug legalization, right? Well, with opioids, via loose prescriptions, you got it, and what’s happened? We are in the middle of the worst epidemic of overdose and addiction this country has ever seen, thousands are dropping like flies, and it appears that things will be getting worse before they get better. Your theories might sound nice when you don’t have skin in the game, but when reality intrudes on your fantasies of a free society, real people pay the price. Right?
Well, not quite.
The above argument might sound familiar because a variation of it is trotted out during every national crisis. Be it war, financial instability, poverty, during health insurance debates, or any other crisis or threat, a chorus rises to blame supporters of a free society for their juvenile dogmatism that is surely causing the very predicament everyone is suffering under.
“There are no libertarians in financial crises,” gloated mainstream financial analysts during the subprime meltdown, which was caused by “free market fundamentalists”, according to George Soros.
The opioid crisis is no different, but one would have thought the fingers would have pointed at libertarians far earlier. This may be partially due to the fact that support for ending the Drug War occupies a strange grey area between Left and Right. More traditional, law-and-order type conservatives generally support the War on Drugs, as well as the tough-on-crime tactics used to prosecute it, while the Left tends to support ending the Drug War due to its violation of civil liberties.
This has always seemed strange to me since conservatives tend to support more freedom as opposed to less, smaller government as opposed to big, and the Left tends to always and everywhere support greater restriction of liberty for the ostensible benefit of, well, someone, somewhere, and a large, intrusive government to do it. But, during a crisis, regardless of Left or Right, voices will denounce liberty in favor of something more “responsible”. “We don’t have the luxury of being libertarians right now”, say the condescending, adult voices of reason and responsibility.
And so it is with Jonah Goldberg at National Review, who recently authored a piece against the libertarian argument for full drug legalization, essentially stating that an opioid-addicted dystopia would be the inevitable future of a libertarian society, with heroin sold on the shelf right next to Johnny Walker, loaves of bread, and the morning paper.
In Goldberg’s piece, “The Opioid Crisis Should Make Libertarians Rethink the Drug Legalization Argument”, he sees the opioid crisis as an experiment in drug legalization. He then looks at the outcome, mass overdose deaths, then finger wags libertarians for their blind devotion to ideology.
David French had a similar take on the crisis in a piece back in April, “The Opioid Crisis Should Kill the Call to Legalize Hard Drugs”. He sees an opioid crisis and blames “drug libertarianism”.
Forgive me, but the libertarian argument for full legalization is a bit more nuanced than that.
Libertarians understand full well the dangers that hard drugs pose for society at large, but this is the very reason for their support for full legalization. Far from wanting anyone and their children to get their hands on heroin, they understand that drug prohibition itself has been the cause of the widespread use of these hard drugs.
Richard Cowen’s 1986 article, “How the Narcs Created Crack”, illustrates the “Iron Law of Prohibition”, which essentially states that the harder the crackdown on drugs, the harder the drugs become. There was no national conversation about heroin, meth, or crack-cocaine during the late 70s because there was no epidemic associated with these drugs. It was only once a militarized crackdown on marijuana and cocaine really got underway that black market entrepreneurs developed and sold the economic equivalent of bathtub gin that these hard drugs became a problem.
In my home state of Oklahoma, where meth use is rampant, law enforcement effectively eliminated the mom-and-pop labs that produced meth locally. But meth use still increased, and overdoses increased. What explains this? The Mexican drug cartels moved in, bringing their high potency meth, produced south of the border in super labs, and began supplying the demand. Oklahoma law enforcement unwittingly invited the cartels into this state, and are effectively the chief enforcers of their market share.
There is now a push by the Oklahoma AG to treat opioid manufacturers like organized crime through the use of the RICO law, but it only takes just a little imagination to understand that this would only benefit real organized crime.
Ed; The manufacturers of opiod drugs are Not??? Organized Crime?
RICO prosecutions would be a Bad Thing? REALLY???
The solution to the opioid epidemic isn’t to abandon the philosophy of liberty and opt for a renewed Drug War, but to develop a non-opioid based painkiller and make it widely available to patients and addicts. Cannabis appears to be the chief contender for this role, as it has been shown that addicts can be successfully weaned off their deadly poisons through the use of marijuana. And when given the choice, pain patients overwhelmingly prefer marijuana to opioids. So what’s the hold-up?
Prescribing heroin to those most susceptible to addiction, pain sufferers, should be an idea tossed in the dustbin, but the corollary policy doesn’t lie in the simplistic “let’s fight a war!” mindset. Simple-minded prohibition brought us to this precipice, it cannot bring us out. An amped-up, militarized war on prescription opioids will lead to an unprecedented plague of black market heroin, laced with fentanyl, elephant tranquilizers, and God knows what else.
The situation, then, will truly be out of control. The Cartel presence in the U.S. will become massive, and ubiquitous, as black market heroin profits will soar, corrupting law enforcement, the political class, and everyone standing to cash in. The United States will then truly become a Narco State.
Periods of national crisis are the true test of defenders of liberty and are the very times to defend the philosophy of liberty most vigorously, because it’s this philosophy that will lead the way out.
 
Thank You Zero Hedge, TDB, and Daily Bell.

'Diversity' Watch Germany: Spike In Stabbings

via ZeroHedge

Authored by Soeren Kern via The Gatestone Institute,
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door migration policies have set in motion a self-reinforcing cycle of violence in which more and more people are carrying knives in public - including for self-defense.
  • A 40-year-old man stabbed to death his 31-year-old wife and mother of their three children. Police said the man was angry that his wife was using social media.
  • A "dark-skinned" man (dunklem Teint) drew a knife on a 54-year-old female train conductor when she asked him for his ticket.
A recent surge in stabbings and knife-related violence across Germany is drawing renewed attention to the deteriorating security situation there since Chancellor Angela Merkel's 2015 decision to allow in more than a million migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
In recent months, people armed with knives, axes and machetes have brought devastation to all of Germany's 16 federal states. Knives have been used not only not only to carry out jihadist attacks, but also to commit homicides, robberies, home invasions, sexual assaults, honor killings and many other types of violent crime.
Knife-related crimes have occurred in amusement parks, bicycle trails, hotels, parks, public squares, public transportation, restaurants, schools, supermarkets and train stations. Many Germans have the sense that danger lurks everywhere; public safety, nowhere.
Police admit they are outnumbered and overwhelmed and increasingly unable to maintain public order — both day and night.
Statistics that are reliable on knife violence in Germany - where police been accused of failing to report many crimes, apparently in an effort "not to unsettle" the public - do not exist.
A search of German police blotters, however, indicates that 2017 is on track to become a record year for stabbings and knife crimes: Police reported more than 3,500 knife-related crimes between January and October 2017, compared to around 4,000 reported crimes during all of 2016 - and only 300 in 2007. Overall, during the past ten years, knife-related crimes in Germany have increased by more than 1,200%.
The media in Germany do not report most knife-related violence. Crimes that are reported are often dismissed as "isolated incidents," unrelated to mass immigration. Moreover, many crime reports, including those in police blotters, omit any reference at all to the nationalities of the perpetrators and victims — ostensibly to avoid inflaming anti-immigration sentiments.

Pictured: German police secure the crime scene after a knife attack on May 10, 2016 at the train station in Grafing. A man stabbed four people while reportedly shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is greater"), killing one. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
Merkel's open-door migration policies have, however, set in motion a self-reinforcing cycle of violence in which more and more people are carrying knives in public — including for self-defense.
The epicenter of knife-related violence in Germany is Berlin, where some areas are now so dangerous that they have effectively become no-go zones. In Neukölln and other neighborhoods with large immigrant communities, stabbings have become daily features of life. Migrants were responsible for at least 45% of the crimes committed in the German capital in 2016, according to the Berliner Morgenpost.
The northern cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven are also hotbeds of knife violence. In 2016, at least 469 people — more than one a day — were stabbed in Bremen, according to official documents obtained by the newspaper Bild. More than a dozen people in Bremen died of their stab wounds. Another 165 knife attacks were registered in nearby Bremerhaven, a 75% increase since 2014. Migrants, according to Bild, were found responsible for most of the violence.
Another flashpoint of knife violence is North Rhine-Westphalia; stabbings are rampant in Bielefeld, Bochum, Bonn, Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf and Essen, among other cities. Düsseldorf's city center has been particularly plagued by stabbings.
Many knife attacks appear to be random, indiscriminate assaults on innocent bystanders — especially at transport hubs and on public transportation:
  • Munich, October 21. A 33-year-old man randomly stabbed eight people, including a 12-year-old boy, at the Rosenheimer Platz. Police said they "assume" that the stabber, a serial offender with a long rap sheet, was suffering from a "mental disorder."
  • Mönchengladbach, October 16. An 18-year-old Algerian, in Germany illegally, randomly drew a knife on a 65-year-old man in a wheelchair at the central train station.
  • Hamburg, October 15. A 23-year-old man was stabbed in a restaurant after he made "accidental eye contact" with his attacker.
  • Berlin, October 11. Two passersby were stabbed at the Neukölln subway station. Police said the attack was random and unprovoked.
  • Cologne, October 2. A 24-year-old woman was robbed at knifepoint by a "dark-skinned" man (dunklen Teint) while on a train to Düsseldorf's airport.
  • Mannheim, September 30. A 31-year-old man stabbed random passersby. Police fired a warning shot after pepper spray failed to subdue him.
  • Leipzig, July 27. A 46-year-old father at an amusement park with his family was stabbed and seriously injured when he was attacked by a group of Afghan youths.
Knife attacks increasingly involve teenagers and young children as well as women:
  • Gießen, November 15. Two "southern-looking" men (südosteuropäisch Aussehen) drew a knife on two children at a school playground and took their lunch money.
  • Dormagen, November 15. A 39-year-old man randomly drew a knife on a teenager at the Helmut-Schmidt-Platz. The attacker was transferred to a psychiatric ward.
  • Wiesbaden, November 14. A man drew a knife on a woman and her children in broad daylight at a playground. The woman said the man tried to steal her dog and when she resisted, attacked her.
  • Cologne, November 2. A 39-year-old woman was stabbed by a man on drugs.
  • Singen, October 4. Two 14-year-old children speaking Turkish drew a knife and assaulted several children at a playground.
  • Dortmund, October 1. A 15-year-old was stabbed after he tried to stop a fight between a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old at the Gustav-Heinemann school.
  • Freiburg, September 29. A 34-year-old woman was stabbed by another woman during a dispute in a parking lot.
  • Hermannsburg, August 29. A man drew a knife on a 22-year-old woman because she was supposedly holding up traffic in a parking garage.
In mass brawls between groups of people from different nationalities and ethnic groups, knives appear to be weapons of choice:
  • Erfurt, November 11. A 22-year-old Afghan was stabbed and seriously injured during an altercation with other Afghans at a multifamily house.
  • Rüdersdorf, November 11. A 19-year-old was seriously injured during a knife fight at a multifamily house.
  • Hamburg, November 9. Three men were stabbed during a knife fight in Eimsbüttel.
  • Berlin, November 7. A 21-year-old Vietnamese man was stabbed to death as he left his father's convenience store in the Wilmersdorf district. The killer is still at large.
  • Bremen, November 2. A 20-year-old man was stabbed to death during a mass brawl in front of a kebab restaurant. A few hours earlier, another man had been shot to death in a nearby supermarket.
  • Hoyerswerda, October 25. A 23-year-old Libyan was slashed in the face during a fight with a 28-year-old Libyan and a 23-year-old Tunisian.
  • Bad Wildungen, October 16. An 18-year-old man was stabbed and seriously injured when a dozen people got into a knife fight.
  • Eschwege, October 15. A 23-year-old Afghan stabbed a 23-year-old Algerian during a mass brawl involving more than 40 people at a refugee shelter.
  • Dortmund, October 14. More than 40 migrants engaged in a knife fight at a refugee shelter. When police arrived, they were "massively attacked" by the mob. Police used dogs to restore order.
  • Cologne, October 14. A 22-year-old migrant from Africa was stabbed to death at the Ebertplatz in a knife fight involving six other Africans.
  • Öhringen, October 12. A 17-year-old German-Turk stabbed and seriously wounded a 19-year Pole during a knife fight.
  • Bielefeld, October 2. A 21-year-old man was repeatedly stabbed after he came to the aid of a couple being attacked by a group of Afghan men at a skate park. More than 20 people eventually joined the fight. The stabbing suspect is an 18-year-old Iraqi Kurd.
  • Naumburg, October 1. An 18-year-old Afghan and a 19-year-old Moroccan were stabbed during a mass brawl between persons of foreign origin.
  • Dortmund, September 3. A 34-year-old Bulgarian stabbed a 54-year-old Turk outside a restaurant.
Knives have also been used in "honor" violence and internecine disputes:
  • Bad Homburg, October 30. A 40-year-old man stabbed to death his 31-year-old wife and mother of their three children. Police said the man was angry that his wife was using social media.
  • Oldenburg, October 14. The trial began of a 37-year-old Iraqi accused of stabbing to death his wife, the mother of his five children, who were in the house at the time of the attack. According to the indictment, the Iraqi murdered his wife to restore the "family honor" after he believed she was having an affair with another man. The woman had, in fact, been attending German language courses.
  • Eggenfelden, October 4. A 47-year-old migrant from Kazakhstan castrated a 28-year-old Ukrainian migrant at a migrant shelter; the victim bled to death at the scene.
  • Leipzig, August 11. A 37-year-old Afghan stabbed to death his 34-year-old wife, who was pregnant with their third child. The couple's two children were present at home during the crime.
  • Riederich, July 9. A 35-year-old Macedonian stabbed to death a 30-year-old Macedonian from a rival clan during a wedding.
  • Herzberg, June 29. Mohammad Hussain Rashwani, a 38-year-old migrant from Syria tried to behead 64-year-old Ilona Fugmann at her beauty salon. Fugmann had offered Rashwani a job as a hair stylist and German media praised him as an exemplar of successful integration. Mohammad reportedly had found it difficult to subordinate himself to his female boss.
  • Cologne, June 14. A 33-year-old Syrian stabbed and seriously injured his ex-wife at a supermarket in Cologne. He also stabbed his 13-year-old son after the boy intervened to protect his mother.
  • Cottbus, June 9. A 32-year-old Chechen man was sentenced to 13 years in prison for slitting his wife's throat and throwing her out of the second-floor window of their apartment. The man was charged with manslaughter rather than murder because, according to the court, the "honor killing" was done in the heat of passion: the man thought that his wife had been unfaithful.
Knife attacks also occurred against social workers and public servants:
  • Pfaffenhofen, November 11. A 28-year-old Kazakh-German held a 31-year-old clerk at a youth welfare office hostage at knifepoint for more than five hours. He said he disagreed with the results of a custody battle, in which his one-year-old daughter would be sent to a foster home.
  • Göppingen, October 26. A "dark-skinned" man (dunklem Teint) drew a knife on a 54-year-old female train conductor when she asked him for his ticket.
  • Ahaus, October 12. A 28-year-old Nigerian was sentenced to 13 years in prison for stabbing to death a 22-year-old assistant at a refugee shelter.
  • Saarbrücken, June 7. A 27-year-old Syrian stabbed to death a 30-year-old psychologist working for the German Red Cross. The attacker and the psychologist reportedly got into an argument during a therapy session at a counselling center for traumatized refugees.
Attackers are often repeat offenders known to police:
  • Gießen, November 15. A 29-year-old Kosovar and a 19-year-old Albanian drew a knife on an undercover detective who caught them shoplifting. Police said the Kosovar was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant.
  • Bielefeld, October 31. A 39-year-old man drew a knife on police during a routine identification check. Police said he had a long rap sheet that included burglary and dealing drugs.
  • Düsseldorf, October 17. A 27-year-old migrant, Khudeda Jamal Jindi, from Iraq, slashed a man in the face at Burgplatz. Police said he had a long rap sheet that included other knife crimes; it remains unclear why he was never deported.
  • Arnschwang, June 4. Mostafa J., a 41-year-old asylum seeker from Afghanistan, stabbed to death a five-year-old Russian at a refugee shelter. It later emerged that the man had a criminal history in Germany and should have been deported in 2011 but was not.
Recent knife-jihad attacks include:
  • Hamburg, July 28. A 26-year-old Palestinian, Ahmed A., stabbed to death one person and injured several others at a supermarket in the Barmbek district. Although he repeatedly shouted "Allahu Akbar" and said he was a jihadist who wanted to die as a martyr, the newspaper Die Welt wrote: "It is still unclear whether the Barmbek murder is the work of a convinced Islamist or the desperate act of a mentally troubled person. His approach seems downright schizophrenic — or is it indeed calculated?"
Meanwhile, other knife-related crimes reported during October include:
  • Hagen, October 1. An unidentified man slashed a man with a machete at the central train station. Speyer, October 1. A 27-year-old man with a knife attacked police during an identification check at the central railway station. Werl, October 1. A "southern-looking" man (südländischer Typ) robbed on a 20-year-old man at knifepoint.
  • Wilhelmshaven, October 1. A man speaking German with an Eastern European accent robbed a gas station at knifepoint. Freiburg, October 2. Two "Turkish-looking" teenagers (türkisches Aussehen) robbed two teenagers at knifepoint in a public plaza. Ulm, October 2. Three "dark-skinned" men (dunkle Hautfarbe) robbed a 20-year-old man at knifepoint.
  • Soest, October 4. An 18-year-old Somali stabbed a 39-year-old German man at a railway station. Hamburg, October 5. A 24-year-old security guard at a clothing store was stabbed when he confronted two male shoplifters. Wolfsburg, October 6. Two men were slashed during a fight in the Hochring district. Wiesbaden, October 6. A 23-year-old man was stabbed in the city center.
  • Johanngeorgenstadt, October 7. Five teenagers had their knives confiscated during a weapons check at the German/Czech border. Münster, October 7. Two men robbed a 16-year-old at knifepoint at a bus stop. Bremen, October 8. Two men were stabbed during a fight in the city center.
  • Weinheim, October 9. A 24-year-old store clerk was stabbed by a 46-year-old client. Hofheim, October 10. A private security guard was slashed at an Oktoberfest celebration. Cologne, October 10. A 36-year-old man was stabbed by a 26-year-old at a kiosk in the Zollstock district.
  • Stade, October 11. A "southern-looking" man (südländischem Aussehen) stabbed and seriously injured a 38-year-old man. Berlin, October 13. A man was seriously injured in a knife fight at the Alexanderplatz. Kassel, October 15. Two "Arabic-speaking" men robbed a 43-year-old woman at knifepoint in the Wesertor district.
  • Niederstetten, October 17. A 19-year-old man stabbed a 30-year-old man in the stomach at a restaurant. The stabbing occurred after the 30-year-old allegedly "offended" the 19-year-old's wife. Bremen, October 19. A 25-year-old man was stabbed by a group of males in the Huchting district. When police arrived to investigate, they were immediately surrounded by a mob of between 30 and 40 men. Police used teargas and dogs to restore order. Berlin, October 19. A 19-year-old Romanian was stabbed to death in the Tiergarten district.
  • Halle, October 19. A man was stabbed during an dispute over drugs. Düsseldorf, October 21. Two men were stabbed by four assailants in front of a McDonald's restaurant in the city center. Stemwede, October 21. Three members of the same family were stabbed during a dispute. The attack was apparently initiated by a 43-year-old man opposed to his step-daughter's choice of boyfriend.
  • Hamburg, October 22. An 18-year-old clerk at a cellphone store was stabbed by a 21-year-old man unhappy with the service. Hamburg, October 22. A 30-year-old man was stabbed in the stomach at the entrance to a subway station. Düsseldorf, October 22. A 21-year-old man was stabbed while trying to break up a fight.
  • Rheine, October 22. A 20-year-old Romanian stabbed a 44-year-old Romanian during a disagreement. Berlin, October 23. A 59-year-old man was stabbed and seriously injured at a store in the Schöneberg district. Leipzig, October 23. A 21-year-old man was stabbed during a fight at the central train station.
  • Solingen, October 23. A 19-year-old man was stabbed during an fight. Berlin, October 24. A 39-year-old man stabbed a 20-year-old man at the Jewish Hospital in the Wedding district. Hünstetten-Bechtheim, October 27. An 18-year-old man was stabbed at an annual festival.
  • Wangen, October 29. A 56-year-old man stabbed a 52-year old man during a disagreement at a restaurant. Chemnitz, October 29. A 27-year-old Libyan was stabbed during a knife fight involving migrants from North Africa.
  • Gießen, October 30. Two Syrian asylum seekers were stabbed during an altercation with another Syrian in the city center. Waldshut, October 30. A 32-year-old man was stabbed and seriously injured during a row at a bus station in the Tiengen district. Frankfurt, October 30. An apartment manager was stabbed and seriously injured when he attempted to evict a family from the premises.
  • Kulmbach, October 31. A 38-year-old Turk stabbed a 33-year-old German during a dispute. Berlin, October 31. Three men were injured during a knife fight involving six men at a store in the Schöneberg district. The Berliner Zeitung provided an unusually detailed account of the fight, including the ages of each of the participants, but failed to give any information about their nationality.

Thank You Mr Kern and Mr Durden. 


Meanwhile, In Sweden Crime Hits All Time Highs

Friday, November 17, 2017

Dear Liberals: How To Move To Canada.

A contrarian view for those still so upset you're still boring us with your empty threats of moving to Canada, . . . because Trump is President.


20th Century Classical Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams, Oboe Concerto in A Minor


Health Giant Sutter Destroys Evidence In Crucial Antitrust Case Over High Prices


khn
Chad Terhune November 17, 2017
Sutter Health intentionally destroyed 192 boxes of documents that employers and labor unions were seeking in a lawsuit that accuses the giant Northern California health system of abusing its market power and charging inflated prices, according to a state judge.

In a ruling this week, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow said Sutter destroyed documents “knowing that the evidence was relevant to antitrust issues. … There is no good explanation for the specific and unusual destruction here.”

Karnow cited an internal email by a Sutter employee who said she was “running and hiding” after ordering the records destroyed in 2015. “The most generous interpretation to Sutter is that it was grossly reckless,” the judge wrote in his 12-page ruling.

Sutter, which has 24 hospitals and nearly $12 billion in annual revenue, said the destruction was a regrettable mistake.

Employers and policymakers across the country are closely watching this legal fight amid growing concern about the financial implications of industry consolidation. Large health systems are gaining market clout and the ability to raise prices by acquiring more hospitals, outpatient surgery centers and physician offices.

“It’s stunning what Sutter did to cover up incriminating documents in this case,” said Richard Grossman, the lead plaintiffs’ lawyer representing a class of more than 1,500 employer-funded health plans.

In April 2014, a grocery workers’ health plan sued Sutter and alleged it was violating antitrust and unfair competition laws. The plaintiffs began requesting documents related to contracting practices, such as “gag clauses” that prevent patients from seeing negotiated rates and choosing a cheaper provider and “all-or-nothing” terms that require every facility in a health system to be included in insurance networks.

Sutter disputes the broader allegations in the lawsuit over its market conduct and said its charges are in line with its competitors’.

The judge said that in 2015 Melissa Brendt, Sutter’s chief contracting officer in the managed-care department, and an assistant general counsel, Daniela Almeida, authorized Brendt’s executive assistant to destroy 10 years’ worth of managed-care documents going back to 1995. The company earlier had scheduled the documents to be destroyed in 2035 — 20 years later.

The executive assistant, Sina Santagata, testified in a deposition she wasn’t aware of any other time in her 17 years at Sutter when the managed-care department destroyed records held in storage.

In his Nov. 13 ruling against Sutter, the judge singled out an email by Santagata as “particularly noteworthy.”The executive assistant emailed Brendt, the chief contracting officer, on July 30, 2015, after sending the order to destroy the records. She wrote, “I’ve pushed the button … if someone is in need of a box between 3/15/95 & 11/23/05 … I’m running and hiding. … ‘Fingers crossed’ that I haven’t authorized something the FTC will hunt me down for.”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces antitrust laws in health care to prevent hospitals, drugmakers and other industry players from engaging in anti-competitive behavior that could harm consumers.

Santagata testified that she was being “sarcastic” in her email, and Sutter told the judge that the FTC reference was just a “joke.”

Karnow saw no humor in it. “There are infinite topics for jokes, and the choice of this one is strong evidence” in the plaintiffs’ favor, he wrote in his order Monday.

As part of his sanctions against Sutter, the judge ordered the health system to examine email backup tapes covering 2002 through 2005 to search for documents on some of the same topics as the destroyed records. Also, Karnow said he will consider a plaintiffs’ motion for issuing jury instructions that are adverse to Sutter in light of the document destruction. The trial is scheduled for June 2019.

“The record shows that Sutter’s conduct was more than just an inadvertent error,” Karnow wrote.

Sutter spokeswoman Karen Garner said the incident was a “mistake made as part of a routine destruction of old paper records” and the Sacramento-based health system disclosed the error as soon as it was discovered.

“We regret that as part of a routine archiving process we failed to preserve some boxes of decades-old hard-copy documents,” Garner said.

The United Food and Commercial Workers and its Employers Benefit Trust initially filed the case against Sutter in 2014. The joint employer-union health plan represents more than 60,000 employees, dependents and retirees. The court certified the case as a class action in August, allowing hundreds of other employers and self-funded health plans to potentially benefit from the litigation.

In addition to its 24 hospitals, Sutter’s nonprofit health system has 35 surgery centers and more than 5,000 physicians in its network. It reported $11.9 billion in revenue last year and income of $554 million.

Grossman, the plaintiffs’ counsel, said he welcomed the judge’s ruling. But he said much of the evidence is irreplaceable, particularly handwritten notes from negotiating sessions and meetings involving key Sutter executives.

He said those records covered a critical period in the early 2000s when there was a “sea change in Sutter’s contracting strategy” and it implemented provisions that insulated the health system from price competition.

“This was groundbreaking in the industry,” Grossman said. “Until we address the anti-competitive behavior of entities like Sutter, we will not solve the problem of high costs in health care.”

The plaintiffs are seeking to recover hundreds of millions of dollars from Sutter from what it claims are illegally inflated prices. The lawsuit alleges that an overnight hospital stay at Sutter hospitals in San Francisco or Sacramento costs at least 38 percent more than a comparable stay in the more competitive Los Angeles market.

A study published last year found that hospital prices at Sutter and Dignity Health, the two biggest hospital chains in California, were 25 percent higher than at other hospitals around the state. Researchers at the University of Southern California said the giant health systems used their market power to drive up prices — making the average patient admission at both chains nearly $4,000 more expensive.

“Sutter is a pretty extreme case of market power, but health care consolidation has become a really important issue across the country,” said Kathy Hempstead, a health care researcher at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “It’s been on the back burner somewhat because of the debate over the Affordable Care Act, but there is bipartisan interest in tackling this.”

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Chad Terhune: cterhune@kff.org, @chadterhune


Thank You Mr Terhune and Kaiser Health News

20th Century Classical Music, Scriabin, Symphony #1, Ricardo Muti/Philadelphia Orchestra