Follow the Trail Part II

In my previous post about health care reform, I suggested we follow the money to figure out why health care in America is so expensive and I pointed the knarled, bony finger of fault at trail lawyers and claimed that medical malpractice laws need to be reformed. I admitted that I could be wrong and I’ve personally wondered why there are no news outlets barking up this same tree.

Ha! I am vindicated! The Wall Street Journal has broached the subject with a slightly different approach. Medical malpractice law suits not only cost a lot of money, but to avoid them doctors may be using extra, unnecessary test and medications. Consider this:

But this is the one reform Washington will not seriously consider. That’s because the trial lawyers, among the largest contributors to the Democratic Party, thrive on the unreliable justice system we have now.

Almost all the other groups with a stake in health reform—including patient safety experts, physicians, the AARP, the Chamber of Commerce, schools of public health—support pilot projects such as special health courts that would move beyond today’s hyper-adversarial malpractice lawsuit system to a court that would quickly and reliably distinguish between good and bad care. The support for some kind of reform reflects a growing awareness among these groups that managing health care sensibly, including containing costs, is almost impossible when doctors go through the day thinking about how to protect themselves from lawsuits.

That’s what I’ve said. And my original premise of following the money? How about this: “But under the current system, 54 cents of the malpractice dollar goes to lawyers and administrative costs, according to a 2006 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.”

And why does Congress have such a hard time doing anything about this mess?

 Former Sen. John Edwards, for example, made a fortune bringing 16 cases against hospitals for babies born with cerebral palsy. Each of those tragic cases was worth millions in settlement. But according to a 2006 study at the National Institutes of Health, in nine out of 10 cases of cerebral palsy nothing done by a doctor could have caused the condition.

Many of them are part of the problem. Or at least got to where they are now by benefiting from the problem.

I need to add that I’m not quite as willing to lay the blame solidly at the feet of trial lawyers as the author is. I think there is another side to this problem and it is in how major pharmaceutical companies conduct their business. So far, what we’re hearing from Washington seems to be mostly how to inject more money into this busted systems so those who are getting rich on this stuff can continue to do so.

In an odd defense of President Obama, that ain’t socialism folks. That’s unbridled capitalism in its worst form. While it might make for a good sound bite, calling Obama and socialized medicine “socialist” is really missing the point. The “socialized” medicine being kicked around the nation’s capital is going to benefit a few common people here and there but continue to line the pockets of the rich.

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