Krauthammer on Health Care and Tort Reform

From Charles Krauthammer’s column in The Washington Post, “Why Obamacare is Sinking,” responding to the President’s claim that health care reform is not about politics.

This is not about politics? Then why is it, to take but the most egregious example, that in this grand health-care debate we hear not a word about one of the worst sources of waste in American medicine: the insane cost and arbitrary rewards of our malpractice system?

When a neurosurgeon pays $200,000 a year for malpractice insurance before he even turns on the light in his office or hires his first nurse, who do you think pays? Patients, in higher doctor fees to cover the insurance.

And with jackpot justice that awards one claimant zillions while others get nothing — and one-third of everything goes to the lawyers — where do you think that money comes from? The insurance companies, which then pass it on to you in higher premiums.

But the greatest waste is the hidden cost of defensive medicine: tests and procedures that doctors order for no good reason other than to protect themselves from lawsuits. Every doctor knows, as I did when I practiced years ago, how much unnecessary medical cost is incurred with an eye not on medicine but on the law.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi opens the summer convention of the American Association for Justice this evening, addressing thousand of trial lawyers. Speaking tomorrow is perambulating Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. (Page 16 of AAJ convention brochure.) Also scheduled for appearances before the trial lawyers are Rep. Henry Waxman and Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Here’s a question: Why is it, to take but the most egregious example, that in this grand health-care debate we hear not a word about one of the worst sources of waste in American medicine: the insane cost and arbitrary rewards of our malpractice system?

(Hat tip: Walter Olson)

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