Legal Reform and Healthcare Reform
I read your Online article, “Why Legal Reform Must Be a Part of Healthcare Reform.” As the father of a medical doctor in his third year of residence, I can attest to the huge waste of his time practicing defensive medicine dictated by the concerns over litigation, rather than spending time with patients solving medical problems. Also, I have a very dear doctor friend, an OB-GYN, who because the hospital he worked for feared the cost of fighting a lawsuit was forced to settle a case rather than defend his correct diagnosis simply because the hospital provided his insurance and they had the right to dictate the outcome. His exemplary record was forever blemished.
Allan D. Grody
Financial InterGroup Advisors
New York, N Y
A recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study reveals that the claims about tort reform are overstated. There are other studies that support this. I support tort reform—a cap on punitive damages unless gross negligence can be established by a health court or some professional pre-screening process—[as] essential.
In Texas, however, our experience has not been encouraging. First the good news: There has been a significant increase in the number of physicians entering the market. They see that our legal risk environment is improving, as are malpractice rates, especially for the upper risk specialties such as OB-GYN, orthopedics and neurological surgery. Now if healthcare was a true free market, this flood of new physicians into the market would lead to increased competition among physicians for patients. This should help to drive down costs. But this is really not a free-market structure. Currently, healthcare costs in Texas are among the highest in the nation, and they continue to move upward. Moreover, although there has been a reduction in malpractice rates, physicians are not changing their practice patterns. They still complain about lawsuits and practice defensive medicine, perhaps because that approach generates more revenue for the practice.
Tort reform is important. But do not bang the drum too loudly. With a projected unfunded Medicare liability of $37 trillion by 2025–30, according to David Walker, the former Comptroller General of the United States, the only way we are going to survive the baby boom disaster is by reducing federal spending, which includes Medicare and a host of other programs. Cutting pork-barrel spending and government waste is no more of a silver bullet for our financial crisis than tort reform. You could close the Pentagon, eliminate all government waste and fraud, and you might be able to cover 15–20 percent of the Medicare shortfall Walker has projected. Since federal spending on Medicare has only increased, the outlook has only gotten worse.
John G. Self
Chairman and Senior Client Advisor
People hear what they want to hear. When President Obama says that healthcare legislation will not give insurance to illegals he technically is correct, but he is misleading. Several paragraphs down from whereever the “no healthcare for aliens” provision is found there will be a disclaimer saying that healthcare services will not be denied to any one. This is in court rulings, federal statutes and most state laws. The same can be said for abortion and euthanasia. The president says that seniors will not have their Medicare cut. No, the doctors who provide health services to seniors will have their reimbursement cut 10 percent. He claims that 14,000 people are now losing their healthcare each day. Well, that’s the number of people losing their jobs each day and as a result they are losing their health insurance coverage. It will not be called “the public option,” rather, they will be called insurance cooperatives…that are funded and controlled by the government. And the agenda is not really about healthcare for the poor; it’s about taking wealth from the rich.
It’s the employers who will pay higher taxes and higher employee healthcare costs. The idea that this is about healthcare reform itself is a deception. Most legislation will require information not just about employers but their suppliers and buyers as well. And, [that] will also [mean] access not just to medical but personal information. Bureaucrats and politicians will know about everyone and everything. None of this is necessary. Congress could enact free market solutions like “health savings accounts” that provide consumers options they want.
Michael F. McCarthy