Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Shakespeare was right

In today's Prescriptions blog in the NY Times, Dr. John Creighton Campbell, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Michigan and a visiting researcher at the Tokyo University Institute of Gerontology (how's that for a title?) discusses the difference between the health care system in Japan vs. the U.S. Despite their more rapidly aging population, the Japanese government has not had to substantially increase its health care spending. Dr. Campbell goes on about the healthy Japanese diet, lack of obesity or violent crime. Everybody there has to buy insurance based on their income and physicians are not rewarded for doing more procedures. Yada, yada, yada.

What struck me like a sore uninsured thumb was that he did not mention the Japanese also do not SUE their doctors like we do. In Japan, there are only 22,000 lawyers vs. over 1,000,000 in the U.S. In the U.S., there is one lawyer for every 270 people. In Japan, it is one for every 5,800. None of the five health care bills floating through Congress mentions meaningful tort reform. The people who make out like bandits in these bills are the lawyers, the insurance companies, and big government. The people who get screwed are the patients, the doctors, and the hospitals.

The insurance companies get a huge new base of customers since the government is going to subsidize everybody to buy insurance. The public option has pretty much been pushed off the table. The feds have a vast new bureaucracy to support itself. More people on government payrolls with lifetime civil service employment and more generous government pensions to fund in the future. The lawyers have more potential patients as clients to sue physicians. With the rationing and long waiting times patients will have to face with "health care reform" you can bet there will be plenty of disgruntled patients who will be calling a TV commercial malpractice attorney.

Whatever happened to limits on punitive damages? What about limits on pain and suffering? What about forming a medical court, similar to family or tax court, that has a medically trained judge presiding over malpractice cases instead of having an uninformed jury make nonsensical judgements which they understand little about? How about a system to credential "expert" witnesses so we can be confident they actually know what they're talking about and aren't just some hired gun? How about a system of "loser pays"?

King Henry VI may have been a little extreme, but he was on the right track, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

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