The following letter was received from Michael Perrone, Jr. of Belcamp, MD:
I would like to offer an analogy that I believe accurately illustrates the current state of health care costs in this country. Think of our health insurance system as a house in the middle of a hurricane. Water is coming in through every conceivable place: through broken windows, attic vents, and cracks in the foundation. Water is also coming in through the front door, which is wide open.
In discussing our predicament, everyone is busily drawing up plans to repair the windows, seal the attic vents, and pump out the basement. Yet nobody has bothered to get up and close the front door!
The front door in this analogy is tort reform, or the idea of capping malpractice awards so that doctors don’t have to order so many unnecessary medical procedures to minimize their chances of being sued. Estimates of the annual cost savings of meaningful tort reform vary widely: from as low as $20 billion to over $200 billion. But even at the low end, this should be a no-brainer. Here is a way to reduce health care costs significantly at no cost to society, so why is this not the leading point in every health care-related debate?
The answer, of course, is because there are many lawyers who benefit from medical lawsuits, and close to half of the members of Congress are lawyers themselves (including seven of Maryland’s eight representatives and one of our senators). But We the People cannot allow ourselves to be misled by the appalling lack of debate on this matter into thinking that this is a trivial issue. I have attended TEA parties, and I also attended the Baltimore Rally for The Public Option at the Senator Theatre last week. Tort reform is the one and only issue for which I have sensed equal levels of public support from both sides of the debate. But instead of being the cornerstone of our dialogue, tort reform is at most an afterthought. We need to change that.
I would like to return to the house-in-a-hurricane analogy to illustrate another point. Imagine that someone is loudly criticizing the quality of the house’s construction and blaming much of the water damage on defective contract work. Now imagine that the individual doing the criticizing is the builder himself.
The builder in this analogy is the representative or senator who points to lack of competition between insurers as being a major factor in our health insurance affordability problem (which of course it is). But why is it never mentioned that the lack of interstate competition is the result of a 1945 federal law which protects insurers from just that? We have politicians blaming the insurance industry for not being competitive while those same politicians keep laws on the books which restrict competition!
This is absurd. We have two powerful, effective, no-cost means at our disposal in the fight against rising health care costs, and our politicians refuse to use them. Instead of considering tort reform or repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act, our elected officials are proposing “solutions” that are vastly more expensive, intrusive, and confusing. This is unacceptable. The only way our voices will be heard is if we yell louder than the lobbyists who represent the trial lawyers and the insurance companies. So let’s start yelling!
Michael Perrone, Jr.