Tort law is a market based corrective for a market-based system, which is why I am not surprised that President Obama is sending signals that he is willing to accept tort reform as part of a health care reform package. From the story:
In closed-door talks, Mr. Obama has been making the case that reducing malpractice lawsuits — a goal of many doctors and Republicans — can help drive down health care costs, and should be considered as part of any health care overhaul, according to lawmakers of both parties, as well as A.M.A. officials.
It is a position that could hurt Mr. Obama with the left wing of his party and with trial lawyers who are major donors to Democratic campaigns. But one Democrat close to the president said Mr. Obama, who wants health legislation to have broad support, views addressing medical liability issues as a “credibility builder” — in effect, a bargaining chip that might keep doctors and, more important, Republicans, at the negotiating table.
That may be part of it, but there is a deeper reason: The possibility of lawsuits are the only real shield against futile care theory and invidious medical discrimination against the vulnerable, known as health care rationing. This is not to say that the current system that too often does forces doctors into a defensive crouch does not need reform. It does. But it is to say that for government to be able to truly control the i-dots and t-crosses of health care, they have to take power away from patients. Closing the court room doors is a crucial step toward that end.
Update: President Obama did not embrace tort reform in his speech at the AMA today. That doesn’t settle the matter since he often says one thing and does another. But the NYT story asserting he was ready to go in that direction appears to be premature.