Tort reform and the health care debate

by Vault Law Editors | September 02, 2009

  • My Vault

Former Knick forward “Dollar” Bill Bradley recently wrote a NY Times op-ed calling for a “grand bipartisan compromise” on health care.  The strategy:  “Combine universal coverage with malpractice tort reform.”  According to Bradley, “an estimated 10 cents of every health care dollar paid by individuals and companies goes for litigation and defensive medicine. For Republicans, tort reform and its health care analogue, malpractice reform, speak to the goal of stronger economic growth and lower costs.” 

This morning, NPR picks up this idea (scroll down) and suggests that the Democrats’ giving ground on “that old Republican chestnut” of cutting down on frivolous lawsuits would facilitate a comprehensive deal on universal health care.  Such a deal might involve adopting the Texas approach of capping non-economic (punitive and pain-and-suffering) damages to $250,000. 

Also this morning, in another health care-themed story, NPR takes a look (scroll down) at the “fee-for-service” payment model for medical treatment.  According to critics, “fee-for-service” provides no incentive for doctors to discourage limitless procedures.  Interviewed is Rep. Jim Cooper (D, TN) who likens the model to “a situation where if we paid lawyers by the word or by the paragraph…we would have the longest legal documents in the world.”  If”?!  And which country's lawyers produce longer legal documents? Its citizens must be suffocating under all the paper.

Anyway, obviously we do pay lawyers by the word, although we call it the “billable hour.”  Underlying the “fee-for-service” debate in the health care industry is a “value vs. volume” question. Interestingly, the same conundrum is at the heart of the legal industry’s grappling with the continuing viability of the billable hour model.  E.g. see here.

                                                   -posted by brian

Bradley on SI.jpg

What ever happened to this guy?

Filed Under: Law

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