Thursday, February 11, 2010

Health care reform shorts:
The tort reform byway

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Republicans keep insisting that "tort reform" -- limiting damages or forbidding lawsuits altogether for medical malpractice -- is a way to lower health care costs. Today in his online chat, policy wonk Ezra Klein says no way:

There is no evidence -- zero, non, zilch -- that even aggressive tort reform dramatically changes spending.

Anyone who lives in California and has been around that block knows this is true. We've had aggressive tort reform and our health care sure isn't cheaper.

Republicans like tort reform because they hope it will starve the lawyers who represent people who suffer medical harm and who overwhelmingly contribute to Democrats. This is about political money, not policy.

And nobody is talking about the real driver of malpractice and medical injury lawsuits: the fact that we have no meaningful national health insurance and welfare scheme. If some doctor kills your spouse through obvious error, you sue because you've been robbed of their earnings.

The consequences of malpractice look to an insurer just like any other "pre-existing condition." If your doctor has amputated the wrong limb (it happens!) or you've contracted a hospital infection that leaves you debilitated, insurance companies sure don't want to pay for the lifelong consequences. You get denied, so you sue.

Even if the most dire consequences of medical error don't happen, you know they could, so you're afraid they might. So you sue.

Want to reduce medical lawsuits? Reduce anxiety about access to medical care!

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