In yet another morphing of George Bush and Barack Obama, the Administration has indicated that it will include “tort reform” in the new and smaller health care bill — provisions that the CBO has said could cost 4,800 lives a year. While an estimated roughly 100,000 people die each year from malpractice, the Administration is about to make it more difficult to sue doctors and hospitals.
What is particularly ironic is that Republicans have been objecting that the health care plan will lower the quality if health care, but they are moving to make it more difficult to sue over such malpractice.
The Congressional Budget Office says that the reforms will save $54 billion over 10 years, but it also notes that it could cost thousands of lives. Moreover, $54 billion over 10 years is not a lot of money in the context of $2.5 trillion we spend each year on health care, as Dick Durbin has noted.
The Democrats clearly want to pass anything that can be called health care reform at any cost, even if it means embracing such canards as these tort reform proposals. While I have supported some tort reforms in the past, we are experiencing a high level of malpractice in this country that is only fueled by caps on damages and other limits on liability. I have long opposed caps on liability as in this column, here.
Tort reform is a bit of a misnomer since reform implies a change for the better. For victims, it can be more like malpractice protection.
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