Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why Democrats Won't Fix Health Coverage

Read this brief but disturbing article in the New York Post and you'll understand all you need to know about the disingenuousness of the Democrats' health care reform proposals:

Dr. Jacquelline Perlman, who's helped deliver hundreds of Brooklyn babies in her 12-year OB-GYN career, is calling it quits -- and citing sky-high malpractice insurance and plunging income.

"I've decided to retire from obstetrics," said Perlman, 42. "It breaks my heart. Malpractice costs are a big part of it. It's a very sad story.

The last straw, she said, came last spring when her insurer, the Combined Coordinating Council, noting the high risk of covering obstetricians, canceled her policy and those of doctors she practiced with at Brooklyn Women's Health Care, a New York Methodist Hospital affiliate.

She found a new insurer, but the damage was done. Her annual malpractice premium now runs about $160,000 -- for a doctor against whom no malpractice case or even so much as a settlement has ever been upheld. And, she said, in the last five years, as her malpractice-insurance costs have risen, her income has dropped by 20 percent.

The reason doctors have to pay so much is not simply because of extortionist insurance companies which, as we've seen recently, operate on very slim profit margins, but because of tort law that allows doctors to be sued for exorbitant amounts of money. Suing doctors is profitable business for trial lawyers and because settlements are often very high insurance companies have to charge a high premium for their coverage. Not only does this drive doctors like Perlman out of the profession it causes those who stay in to charge their patients more which means that patient insurance becomes more expensive as well.

What's the solution? Tort reform. Is tort reform in any of the Democratic plans? No. The reason is, as DNC chairman Howard Dean admits, trial lawyers are among the biggest contributors to Democrat politicians and as such they hum the tune to which the Dems dance.

It's pretty clear that Democrats are not really interested in making health care cheaper and keeping doctors in the business. If they were they'd defy their lawyer friends and include genuine reforms in their legislation. No, the health care reform Obama and the Democrats are pushing, it seems plausible to conclude, is not about reforming health care at all. It's about turning more control over individuals' lives to the government and making us all wards of the state.



President Obama told a gathering of military personnel the other day that he "would never rush the solemn decision of sending [them] into harm's way." Neither does he seem inclined to hurry the decision to send reinforcements to their brothers in arms struggling to stay alive in Afghanistan.

Which makes me wonder. At the same time the President counsels prudence and patience in Afghanistan, he's insisting that we absolutely cannot wait another month to pass health care reform. It's a matter of the highest urgency that it be passed now because thousands are losing their jobs and thus their coverage every day. It's so urgent, in fact, that we cannot even delay long enough to allow legislators and the public to study the bill. Yet even if one of the plans currently before Congress passes tomorrow the reforms won't really kick in until 2013, so why the rush?

Why must we wait month upon month before deciding whether we'll send reinforcements to our troops in Afghanistan who are in critical need right now of more men and equipment, but trip all over ourselves in our hurry to pass legislation that won't take effect for another three years? It's a puzzlement, at least for those who believe Mr. Obama is being honest about his desire to do what's best for the country. For those more cynical, I suppose, it's perfectly understandable.

The cynical view is that Mr. Obama is dithering on Afghanistan because he's simply waiting for a justification for pulling out even though he has declared that conflict to be a "war of necessity." Meanwhile, he's trying to rush health care reform because he knows that the longer his party's proposals are scrutinized the more odious they'll look to both voters and lawmakers.

That's the cynical view, mind you, not necessarily our view here at Viewpoint.