Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tort Reform and Health Care

One element that is missing from the various proposals for reforming health care coverage is tort reform. None of the lawyer-politicians in Congress want to cut off sources of revenue for their fellow lawyers. Yet there’s agonizing as to how to pay for this health care behemoth that will emerge, and how to reduce costs from the absurd current levels.

What everybody seems to be forgetting is the two reasons why costs are so high: the practice of defensive medicine and the cost of malpractice insurance. Here’s some suggestions as to how to reduce costs:

(1) Limit liability and you’ve cut costs significantly. Doctors, hospitals, and other practitioners won’t have to pay such high liability insurance premiums.

(2) Make doctors liable only when there was a clear case of malpractice and negligence, and not just because the doctor or the hospital has deep pockets.

The “Deep Pockets” doctrine is ruining our country. Even if a person or company showed no negligence and did everything correctly, often they still have to pay because they have the “deep pockets” (or at least their insurance carrier does). The reason for this doctrine is the belief that “somebody has to pay” for somebody’s misfortune, regardless of who is to blame or if anybody is to blame. Sometimes the injured party is at fault for their own injury, but somebody else ends up paying because they have the deep pockets. What a ridiculous and unfair way to do things!

So what I mean by tort reform in the medical world is what I described above: limit liability, eliminate the deep pockets way of doing things, and make doctors and hospitals liable only in the case of obvious negligence. Then watch those insurance premiums and other costs some down.

Bottom line: you can’t reform health care until you reform the legal system that drives costs up.

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