Letter: Heath care reform affected by many issues

By Gus Bode

Dear Editor:

In response to Clayton Herschberger’s editorial, ‘The world’s best health care is a privilege,’ allow me to interject some facts.’ At the center of his claims is that exploding health care costs are the consequence of punitive compensation in medical malpractice cases.’ Even a quick search of the relevant research on JSTOR shows little evidence supporting this claim. Most favorable to his claims, an analysis of previous research on damage caps in medical malpractice suits by Leonard Nelson and his colleagues in the Milbank Quarterly (2007) shows that it does reduce premiums.’

However, insurance premiums have been increasing nationwide even while damage caps have been increasingly implemented by states (e.g., Georgia).’ This clearly suggests that while punitive awards contribute to medical costs, that it is hardly the sole cause of such things.


But more generally, Mr. Herschberger’s editorial suggests that cost is the only issue in health care reform.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. The issues in play here are far more complicated.’ Insurance companies can – and do – intervene to stop doctor-prescribed care (I know this from personal experience); doctors can – and some do – order unnecessary tests to pad their own profits; there are serious shortages of doctors in many fields, such as general practice, because of current incentive structures for certain specialties; small businesses are increasingly finding it impossible to offer health care benefits to workers because of high costs; and despite having the most advanced medical care in the world, the United States lags behind on key health care indicators such as infant mortality and other preventable deaths.’

It is ludicrous to suggest that all of these issues are the causes of frivolous lawsuits and runaway compensation.’ Yet past all that, I see no way around the simple moral issue here – how can a nation as wealthy as ours sit by and watch people deprived of their health, sometimes their life, under any circumstances?

Scott D. McClurg

associate professor of political science