February 27, 2010

Something About the Health Care Summit

Did you watch the Health Care Summit? I would have loved to have watched it, but I did not have the time. I have seen highlights, thanks to friends who have taken up lively discussions on Facebook. Chuck asked me to republish some of my comments as a Facebook note, so I'm adding them here as a blog post as well.

The background here is that Dick Durbin, Democratic Majority Whip is responding to the Republican idea that malpractice reform is a high priority health care reform idea. (Please excuse the silly title that firedoglake chose for the video; it's the usual over-the top political Internet-speak.)

In case you're not interested in watching the video (although I recommend it), I will grossly summarize. The CBO estimates that medical malpractice reform suggested by House Republicans will save one fifth of one percent (0.02%) of the country's annual health care spending. The CBO also said that this Republican reform would result in more deaths from medical malpractice (4,800 people / year). While medical costs are skyrocketing, the money paid out in malpractice lawsuits per year has been cut in half since 2003. Durbin goes on to point out that

I stepped into a Facebook conversation in which someone was claiming that Durbin must be in the pocket of lawyers. This essentially ignores anything in the argument for health care reform of malpractice reform. When pressed, he insisted that malpractice reform, small is it would be in impact, is a "step in the right direction." Here is part of my response:

Malpractice is a distraction and that's pretty much all, within the larger discussion. That's why numbers get answered with aspersions.

If we don't accept the CBO numbers on tort reform, then we can't claim it is a problem. If we accept the CBO numbers, then we can't ignore the dire numbers that are driving this push for health reform. (which are orders of magnitude greater and growing, unlike the costs due to malpractice cases)

I'm not against tort reform (as long as there are safeguards that prevent limiting the awards of deserving people). But Durbin is right to smack them down on this; tort reform would absolutely be on the table if Republicans wanted to add it to the bill. But they don't. All they'll suggest is scrapping the bill, not improving it. That's not compromise, it's conciliation. And the bill is already full of Republican ideas.

In that context, a focus on tort reform isn't a step in the right direction, it's a distraction designed to waste our time.

If a fireman is standing in front of a fire with a hose attached to a hydrant, putting down the hose to unzip his fly and urinate on the porch is not a step in the right direction.

Posted by James at February 27, 2010 10:31 AM
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