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Reforming the Reform

Friday, August 7, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Genuine health care reform has to include tort reform. Almost all of the hundreds of doctors who have called my show in the past few months have made this point, and my Wednesday interview with Dr. Peter Mandell of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (podcast here) and my Monday interview with Dr. Peter Weiss of RadicalPrescription.com (podcast here) are just two examples of doctors bluntly discussing the costs of defensive medicine and of the pressing need for changes to the tort laws governing medical malpractice if the costs of health care are going to be controlled.

Charles Krauthammer makes this crucial point in his Washington Post column this morning:

[O]ur crazy system of casino malpractice suits results in massive and random settlements that raise everyone’s insurance premiums and creates an epidemic of defensive medicine that does no medical good, yet costs a fortune.

An authoritative Massachusetts Medical Society study found that five out of six doctors admitted they order tests, procedures and referrals — amounting to about 25 percent of the total — solely as protection from lawsuits. Defensive medicine, estimates the libertarian/conservative Pacific Research Institute, wastes more than $200 billion a year. Just half that sum could provide a $5,000 health insurance grant — $20,000 for a family of four — to the uninsured poor (U.S. citizens ineligible for other government health assistance).

Charles offers some ideas on fixing the problem, and there any number of excellent approaches out there.

The key point is that all the versions of health care reform currently making their way through the Congress are silent on this key aspect of health care reform because of the political power of trial lawyers. If the president is serious about controlling the cost of medicine and funding the expansion of insurance to the millions who need it, he will demand his allies confront the problem and add genuine tort reform to the health care bills.

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