Monday, March 1, 2010

Newsweek's Evan Thomas Has Some Good Advice For President Obama: Lead on Malpractice Reform

Evan Thomas, the Newsweek veteran--and author or co-author of many books on US history--makes a great suggestion at the end of his column,

But is there anything more he could do—anything immediate and concrete—to cut through the Gordian knot tying up health care?

Actually, there is. Obama is well in-formed enough to know that sky-high malpractice-insurance rates and defensive medicine drive up health costs. There is debate over how much, but any doctor will attest to the costly fear of a lawsuit. Almost all objective medical experts agree that something should be done to cut back the vast jury verdicts won by clever trial lawyers in medical-malpractice cases. But the Democrats have declined to even try. Why? Because trial lawyers are among the biggest campaign contributors to the Democratic Party.

If Obama were to come out squarely for medical-malpractice reform—in a real way—he would be making an important political statement: that as president he is willing to risk the political fortunes of his own party for the greater good. It would give him the moral standing, and the leverage, to call on the Republicans to match him by sacrificing their own political interests—by, for instance, supporting tax increases to help pay down the debt. At last week's summit, Obama said Republicans were overstating the costs of medical malpractice, but suggested that some remedies might be pursued at the state level. He'll have to do more than that to break through the partisan paralysis. But, as young Marines and soldiers understand, real leadership requires risks.


  1. Malpractice awards via jury trial are about $13B yearly, last I heard, - which isn’t much considering. But the higher costs rest in those cases settled before trial because the cost of defense is greater than the award. These are nuisance cases and that is where the award money mounts up! So, maybe 'losers should pay' the other sides defense expenses?
    The other cost driver is where doctors are now ‘conditioned’ to practice ‘malpractice’ defensive medicine, extra tests, etc.
    My daughter in law’s malpractice is $130K (ob-gyn) and she doesn’t practice bad medicine nor has she been hit or found guilty of such. It’s just that insurance companies settle out of court so their own costs aren’t high, i.e.; spend $100K on defense vs settle for $50K to make it go away! And there in lies the problem, most of Congress are lawyers and the “buddy,” “old boy” network is thriving at our expense. It has to stop!
    The Gonifs have got to go! November’s coming wont be soon enough!

  2. How about doctors first agree not to commit malpractice which kills tens of thousands per year?