Tags: obama | healthcare

Health Plan Ignores Tort Reform Need

Tuesday, 11 Aug 2009 03:30 PM

By Phil Brennan

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Primum non nocere (first do no harm) is the advice allegedly given to his fellow doctors by the ancient Roman physician Galen. It's a motto that should be adopted by the Obama administration, which is in the process of trying to inflict grievous harm on the finest system of medical care on earth.

The administration and its allies on Capitol Hill are hellbent on what they call healthcare reform, which on close examination turns out to be healthcare deformed.

The 1,000-page House bill, which few members of Congress have bothered to read, is a complex chunk of legislation that among other things can be legitimately read as allowing public financing of abortion and hints broadly at setting up a mechanism to promote euthanasia of the elderly and infirm. Being 83 and presently suffering from cancer, I call it the "needle in my arm bill."

One stinging criticism of the House bill is that it fails to address one of the most costly aspects of our healthcare system — medical malpractice lawsuits and the crying need for tort reform.

According to the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, a whopping 10 percent of medical costs can be attributed to medical malpractice suits, with about 2 percent caused by the cost of lawsuits and between 5 and 9 percent to the costs of expenses run up by so-called defensive medicine.

According to a July 31 story in the Washington Post, it costs lots of money and much valuable time for a medical practitioner to protect himself against malpractice lawsuits. The Post estimates that "The amount of money involved may run as high as $100 billion annually."

It reports that even President Barack Obama has referred to the cost of "unnecessary tests and procedures as part of a ‘defensive' medicine culture created in part by the risk of medical malpractice lawsuits."

He called the cost of healthcare is "a threat to our economy" and "a ticking time bomb." The story notes it is "Strange then that a president [himself a lawyer along with his wife] who declares the nation is sitting atop a ticking time bomb should declare off limits" such obvious remedies as tort reform.

Some estimates cited by the Post put the annual cost at $100 billion to $200 billion or more. Notes the Post "Quantification is difficult because defensiveness is now embedded in the culture of American health care; it's hard to separate the financial incentives from the distrust of justice. Yet every physician, and most patients, can give examples. In a recent letter to the Wall Street Journal, a Texas doctor described how, since being unsuccessfully sued in 1995, he has "doubled and tripled the number of tests and consultations that I order."

In the face of all this, a Congress top-heavy with lawyers seems reluctant to tackle one of the major contributors to skyrocketing healthcare costs — major contributors, by the way, to the Obama presidential campaign. As Charles Krauthammer has noted “The Democrats are parasitically dependent on huge donations from trial lawyers.”

If I had any reluctance to see this monstrous piece of legislation succeed, it vanished a week or so ago when I watched a session of the Waxman Committee engaged in voting on proposed amendments. A couple of hours seeing committee members argue over who will manage my healthcare was enough to convince me that allowing these people to meddle with anything as vital to the people's health as medical care is sheer insanity. I wouldn't trust this clueless bunch to walk my dog (if I had one), much less have anything to do with my medical care.

Moreover, there is something very sinister afoot. As has been widely discussed, the administration's healthcare plans takes a large chunk of the U.S. economy out of the private sector and puts it in the no-so-gentle (and largely incompetent) hands of the federal government.

One cannot escape the feeling that this is only the beginning of an effort by Obama and his allies to impose a system of authoritarian socialism. Let 'em get away with this and we can kiss our God-given liberty goodbye.

Thanks Congress, I'd prefer to choose my health insurance, my doctor, and what medical treatment I need rather than hand them over to the outfit that runs Amtrak.

Note: I won't be writing a column next week — I'll be having surgery to remove the cancerous tumor from my neck. Your prayers are solicited.

Phil Brennan writes for Newsmax.com. He is editor and publisher of Wednesday on the Web and was Washington columnist (Cato) for National Review magazine in the 1960s. He is a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers. He can be reached at pvb@pvbr.com.

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