Commentary Magazine


Topic: Reform tort law

RE: ObamaCare Loses Brooks

While I’m certainly glad that someone on the Times op-ed page has come out against ObamaCare, David Brooks could certainly have been a bit more forceful about it. Nothing wishy-washy about Keith Olbermann’s rejection of ObamaCare.

But I was struck by one thing that Brooks wrote: “The fact is, nobody knows how to reduce cost growth within the current system.”

Of course we do.

Allow people to buy insurance across state lines and thus escape unwanted mandates and such economic idiocies as “guaranteed issuance.” If New Yorkers could buy health insurance in Connecticut, their insurance costs would drop by 40 percent overnight. How’s that for reducing costs, Mr. Brooks?

Reform tort law. Texas did exactly that a few years ago and the cost of medical malpractice insurance — which, of course, is passed on to patients — fell by an average of 21 percent, and 7,000 new doctors began practicing in the state, many in under-served areas.

Require that medical-service providers post prices for standard procedures, allowing comparative shopping by doctors and patients alike. Charges for standard procedures can vary dramatically because they aren’t readily ascertained. Once posted, they would tend to converge toward the lower end. Combined with medical savings accounts that incite health-care consumers to look for the lowest prices, the reduction in costs would amount to billions of dollars.

Allow the young to buy high-deductible, low-cost health insurance to protect them from highly unlikely but devastating accidents and illnesses that represent the greatest risks to their health. That would enlarge the insurance pool and decrease the number of uninsured who are shifted onto the bills of those with insurance. That allows lower premiums.

Health-care costs will increase for reasons we can do nothing about, like inflation, an aging population, new and expensive technologies and drugs, and the fact that when we save a patient from dying of one illness, we guarantee that he will later die of another, at further cost. But there are hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in the health-care system today, and we know exactly how to fix that.

The only reason we haven’t is because politicians don’t want it fixed.

While I’m certainly glad that someone on the Times op-ed page has come out against ObamaCare, David Brooks could certainly have been a bit more forceful about it. Nothing wishy-washy about Keith Olbermann’s rejection of ObamaCare.

But I was struck by one thing that Brooks wrote: “The fact is, nobody knows how to reduce cost growth within the current system.”

Of course we do.

Allow people to buy insurance across state lines and thus escape unwanted mandates and such economic idiocies as “guaranteed issuance.” If New Yorkers could buy health insurance in Connecticut, their insurance costs would drop by 40 percent overnight. How’s that for reducing costs, Mr. Brooks?

Reform tort law. Texas did exactly that a few years ago and the cost of medical malpractice insurance — which, of course, is passed on to patients — fell by an average of 21 percent, and 7,000 new doctors began practicing in the state, many in under-served areas.

Require that medical-service providers post prices for standard procedures, allowing comparative shopping by doctors and patients alike. Charges for standard procedures can vary dramatically because they aren’t readily ascertained. Once posted, they would tend to converge toward the lower end. Combined with medical savings accounts that incite health-care consumers to look for the lowest prices, the reduction in costs would amount to billions of dollars.

Allow the young to buy high-deductible, low-cost health insurance to protect them from highly unlikely but devastating accidents and illnesses that represent the greatest risks to their health. That would enlarge the insurance pool and decrease the number of uninsured who are shifted onto the bills of those with insurance. That allows lower premiums.

Health-care costs will increase for reasons we can do nothing about, like inflation, an aging population, new and expensive technologies and drugs, and the fact that when we save a patient from dying of one illness, we guarantee that he will later die of another, at further cost. But there are hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in the health-care system today, and we know exactly how to fix that.

The only reason we haven’t is because politicians don’t want it fixed.

Read Less