I’m actually sympathetic to doctors — yet in some respects, not. I get into these arguments with them all the time: “There is nothing but your own expectations making you send your kids to private schools, buy an expensive house or get a new car every two years,” I say. “You’re complaining about paying for private school, yet you live in one of the best school districts in the state. What’s up with that?”
One doctor I know (and appreciate, because he keeps his fees low enough that I can actually afford them) is always crying about malpractice insurance premiums and tort reform. “I have a friend in Texas who told me they capped jury awards there, and the malpractice suits went down,” he told me.
“I really wish I had your problems,” I said. “You’re saying that because you want a certain lifestyle, including a wife who stays home with your kids, that other people should give up their legal protections to subsidize that. When you make it impossible for victims to file lawsuits, it means your profession has made a conscious decision to subsidize the really bad doctors. That doesn’t seem quite moral to me.”
Malpractice premiums are driven by other factors anyway. When insurance companies were making a huge profit and premiums were low, doctors weren’t complaining then. Now, when the industry has taken huge losses in the market, they’re trying to make up the difference. The problem? Capitalism!
“Plus, you guys do a terrible job of policing your profession,” I said. “Remember, 95 percent of malpractice cases are generated by the same 5 percent of doctors.” (I used to be a medical fraud investigator; I saw the same familiar names, over and over.)
Still, when I read about this study, the researchers didn’t mention that when doctors sign insurance company contracts, they agree they won’t offer reduced rates to the uninsured. It would probably be a less controversial and more popular approach to make those contract conditions (i.e. insurance profitability subsidies) illegal, don’t you think?
WASHINGTON — Doctors are paid higher fees in the United States than in several other countries, and this is a major factor in the nation’s higher overall cost of health care, says a new study by two Columbia University professors, one of whom is now a top health official in the Obama administration.
Continue Reading »