It should come as no surprise that Bush wants these reforms, since he has spent nearly as much time in his political career on this issue as he has helping Haliburton and making war with Iraq.
The recent CBS Evening News special highlighted how dangerous hospitals have become, and discussed that most patients who file suits simply want to know what happened. They feel jilted when the hospital and insurance company try to hide the ball.
There are measures that could be implemented to increase hospital safety, if Bush would spend some time truly trying to help healthcare consumers, rather than proposing his wishy-washy measley tax cuts, which will help only the insurance industry.
We should, however, have come to expect no more from our President. The best he seems to be able to do when it comes to a domestic agenda is to try to help those who need it least, and hurt those who cann afford it the least. His reforms would only serve to take away the justice system from those who need it the most. Under his plan, advanced by his former colleague Dr. Bill Frist, whose family owns the largest hospital corporation in America, injured housewives, children, and elderly would be limited in what they could recover to a sum usually less than $75,000, no matter how severely they were injured. I wonder if Bush would be willing to take that for Laura, if she were killed--that is what his proposed remedy is.
Ironically, even Congressional Budget Office studies and those from the Harvard Health Practice Group have shown that the total cost of the malpractice system is less than 1% of the total healthcare bill. In contrast, we spend over $16 billion dollars each year treating infections that were acquired in the hospital--infections that people came in without, and got while hospitalized. A little bit of hand-washing will save more than Bush's rip-off of the injured victims.
If we want to take a look at some real savings for the healthcare bill, let's figure out a way to make hospitals quit killing 190,000 people every year. It costs lots of money to keep those people alive after they have been injured before they die. It also costs tens of billions of dollars every year to treat the 1.5 million people who are injured as a result of medication errors. A few barcodes on the prescription labels, or a little bit of computer knowledge on the part of doctors who can't write legibly would go a long way there.
We are certainly not totally free of patients who might sue over nothing, but the system works in the vast majority of cases, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Yet Bush thinks he knows more about these things than the best doctors in the country. He must think they are just a bunch of Northeastern liberals (Daddy lives in Maine!!).
Real reform should come from someone who will try to understand the problems in the healthcare system, not someone who is simply looking for an issue to keep his rear out of the meat-grinder that Iraq has become, and chooses to court more favor with his customary business and insurance buddies. I wonder if he is thinking ahead to unemployment in 2009, and is ready to be a high-paid insurance and business consultant.
Michael Townes Watson.