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Guest: A conservative health-care reform proposal

BY DON RACHETER - GUEST OPINION | NOVEMBER 10, 2009 7:20 AM

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The government must reform our tort system so that billions of dollars are not wasted. Currently, doctors defensively conduct unneeded tests to cover themselves against lawsuits, causing them to obtain costly medical malpractice insurance.

In a 2008 Massachusetts Medical Society survey, 83 percent of physicians in the state admitted they practiced defensive medicine. The group estimated such practices cost at least $1.4 billion. In addition, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently estimated tort reform could save as much as $54 billion nationwide over the next 10 years.

Some sort of administrative process like workers’ compensation could be used to help those who do suffer from medical errors — which occur too often under the current system — without the added burden of fighting in court over who was at fault. If, for example, you still have pain at the site after the operation and when they open you up again, they find a sponge in your body, the remedy needed is the same: It should not be there, you should have the problem fixed at no cost to you, and it will be cheaper and better for society if everyone involved does not have to hire an attorney and go to court to fight about who is at fault.

Let the states be laboratories of democracy and try different plans to see what works — and what doesn’t — before we legislate a one-size-fits-all plan from Congress.

Indiana seems to have had success with a reform plan that includes an insurance pool for small businesses, tax incentives for employers who offer health-care insurance, free preventive care, a health-savings account, and annual insurance coverage from a private company. The reform also included an expansion of Medicaid, the health-insurance program for the poor.

Texas enacted tort reform in 1995, which has resulted in lower medical malpractice rates and more doctors starting to practice in the state. Massachusetts, on the other hand, has had a plan in operation since 2006, which mandates everyone buy a state-approved health-insurance plan or pay a fine.

The Indiana and Texas plans seem to be accomplishing their goals, while costs in Massachusetts continue to rise without accomplishing universal coverage. So why are the five plans currently being considered in Congress using the latter approach rather than the former?

Everyone seems in agreement that this is the time for health-care reform. If so, everyone needs to tell your senator and representative that we favor reforms that will work — reforms that involve choice, competition, and consumer-driven plans, rather than more coercion, control, and central planning.

Why do the “reformers” not mandate that they themselves will be subject to any reform plan they see fit to impose on the rest of us? Is this really about helping American citizens who can’t get affordable, quality health insurance and health care, or is it actually about growing government?

Why are these plans being hammered out behind closed doors instead of out in the open?

Americans need to demand answers to these questions before it is too late. They need to demand health-care reform that will actually help solve our problems — rather than add to them.

Don Racheter is a political activist and longtime Johnson County resident.


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