The Stimulus and the right wingers on health care

February 7, 2009

In discussing the nation’s health care system, “broken” is the most common descriptive term.  Almost all stakeholders seem to agree on the adjective.  Not Mr. Tevi Troy, writing recently for the Weekly Standard.

Health Care Reform Can be a Stimulus

I have argued that a major overhaul of health care would be a significant stimulus to the economy by leveling the competitive playing field for both employers and workers – those currently working, those out of work and those working on the margins.  In the long term, it would free up capital, both the monetary kind and the human kind, for more productive investments.

It does not surprise me that Congress might see things differently.  The major health care provisions in the stimulus package that will be approved by the Senate have very little to do with stimulus and everything to do with safety net.  Support for state Medicaid programs and provisions related to COBRA.  There are two small provisions in the package that do attempt to push the reform agenda a tiny fraction of an inch.

There is a provision in both House and Senate versions of the bill for for further development of electronic medical records and there is money for “comparative effectiveness research”.

These are hardly earth shaking provisions, unless you are listening to the likes of Mr. Tevi Troy.  To Mr. Troy and his ilk, these measures are the Ft. Sumter of the liberal war on the US health care system.

What planet to these people live on? Read the rest of this entry »


Tale of Two Blunders

November 29, 2008

Patients, administrators, and family members of victims aired their reflections about medical errors in a video on the on-line New York Times this week (November 25, 2008).  They all lamented that if only doctors and hospitals could own up to their mistakes, there just may be fewer lawsuits.

Two stories I listened to more than ten years ago underline that theme.  A friend, a lawyer representing a medical provider, shared with me his concern about his client that he would be defending at trial that week.  He had advised his client to settle because the evidence against his client was strong and he was not optimistic.

The patient had acquired an infection while in the hospital.  The evidence was incontrovertible and the patient had died.  But the patient was old and infirm and had little time left and even less quality time.  The infection may have hastened the inevitable but it also made the end needlessly painful for both the patient and the patient’s family.

The family asked only that the hospital not bill them for the extended six month hospital stay caused by the infection.  If the hospital agreed they would not sue. The hospital could not admit to a mistake and, as a result, appeared headed for a judgment that would cost the hospital several times the hospital stay.

The second story was from woman I met while waiting for jury duty.  It seems that during stomach surgery her doctor had perforated her stomach and he did not discover it before she was stitched back up.  The stomach acids caused havoc on her intestines.  I asked her if she had sued her doctor.  Oh no, she was quick to reply.  The doctor was so distraught about the mistake.  She could not do that to him.  He had paid for all her medical expenses since the incident several years earlier.  In addition, he only operated on one patient after that accident, resigning from his surgical practice, but not from his medical practice.

Two stories, two very different responses form the blundering providers resulting in two very opposite victim reactions, and two very different litigation results.