Updated from the original blog entry
The Anti-Candidate's Position on HEALTH CARE
Why does health care cost so much?
One, despite the naysayers and based only on our own experience, because it's so good. Good health care keeps us alive longer and nowadays often keeps our longer lives more active and enjoyable than ever before in history. That's worth something, isn't it?
Two, because it offers us options and features beyond what we've ever had before -- and we want them. You may as well ask why a Cadillac costs more than a Geo. Can the doctor guess what's going on inside us and make recommendations based on guesswork? Sure, but it's so much better when we can have an MRI or a CAT scan or whatever, because educated guesses are the best kind. (Is that to say that doctors and clinics never order unnecessary tests? No, but it seems those are more often required by insurers than healthcare providers.)
Three, because the bureaucracy is bloated and the costs of overhead and administration have gone up -- especially with respect to health insurance programs. The same observation (without the insurance angle) can be made of the education system, the government in general, etc. Adding new regulatory requirements or bureaucratic layers, as in (ahem) any nationalized healthcare scheme, is not going to improve that situation.
Four, and to our mind more important, health care costs so much because doctors have to spend too much of their money and time protecting themselves from frivolous lawsuits. Too many people are like rattlesnakes coiled up around the ankles of doctors and nurses and hospital administrators, waiting to strike if the slightest thing goes wrong in any phase of the diagnosis and treatment process.
There was a time, not long ago, when after a doctor had done all that they could do and the patient still died, people expressed their grief together, congenially. The doctor, who never wants to lose a patient, could express disappointment, regret, and perhaps even personal grief. The family understood that the doctor was a mere mortal, unable to stop the ravages of every disease or repair every injury, and might even clap the doctor on the back and say, "You did your best."
Not anymore. Now someone is bound to dig into every action, every notation, every medication, to see if the slightest error was made. They expect health care professionals to exercise godlike levels of judgment and skill, and if they turn out to be fallible then they exploit those failings, ruthlessly.
Are there cases of negligence? Yes, but they represent only a tiny fraction of the cases and contacts that happen every year. But in our hyper-litigious and risk-averse society every risk is magnified out of all proportion and every mistake is a crisis.
How could we fix this? For years we've been a fan of tort reform, and we suggest two specific ideas:
First, by disallowing every lawsuit filed against any hospital, clinic, or provider within six months of any death or other injury alleged to be a result of care. Why? Because great emotional distress affects our ability to make good decisions. A year would be better, but some period of time is needed for the family to gain some perspective on the event and decide if they believe the provider was negligent or was acting in good faith. It would be even better if cases would be summarily dismissed if the plaintiff and their legal team planned the suit during the hiatus, even if they filed after the time period expired. This wouldn't end all ambulance-chasing, but it would reduce the number of frivolous, reactionary cases.
Second, by restricting the potential damage awards to be commensurate with the earning potential of the plaintiff and the injured party. As a (non-healthcare) example, if the hot coffee spilled in your lap will cause you to miss work, and the embarrassment of having spilled hot coffee in your lap will cause you to miss more work, then maybe you should be awarded an amount related to the amount of work you're likely to miss. Unless you're going to be out of work for 20 years and without your 50-grand-a-year paycheck, you shouldn't get any million-dollar payout.
Two simple ideas, neither of which stand any chance -- so we'll never know if they would make a difference or not. But we think they would.