Coincidence or right-wing ideological conspiracy? You decide…
On Thursday, the Manhattan Institute released a new report recycling the old story that the health care crisis is the result of too many greedy lawyers making money off of malpractice suits filed on behalf of brain-dead babies and maimed workers.
Forget that malpractice lawsuits amount to less than two percent of health care costs --as far as the Manhattan Institute is concerned, it's all about those greedy, greedy lawyers.
To be fair, the report isn't just about medical malpractice. It's also about greedy lawyers making money while driving hazardous drugs and potentially fatal medical devices -- that companies chose to peddle without revealing the risks -- off the market. And it's about lawyers making money by suing HMOs when they refuse to provide the lifesaving care their customers pay for.
Or in the Manhattan Institute's own words: "if today's leeches in the litigation industry are not constrained, they may suck the lifeblood out of the American health-care system."
The Manhattan Institute's solution turns out to be the same as the insurance industry (and the pharmaceutical industry) solution: stop people from suing.
You do this by putting caps on damages awarded to victims, which will have the (un)intended effect of preventing regular Americans from ever entering a courtroom because who can afford to hire a lawyer to take on cases unless it's on a contingency basis with the prospect of a large payment if the settlement is big. And then if there's some recalcitrant state that still wants to provide Americans access to the justice system, you let the federal government preempt them.
Volia! Regular citizens can't hold negligent hospitals, knowing purveyors of dangerous drugs, or profiteering HMOs liable for their actions any more. It won't actually do much to lower anyone's health care costs, but wrongdoers are off the hook.
In short, this is another sign that The Manhattan Institute, once the embodiment of pragmatism, is intentionally turning its head away from the only proven solution to keeping health care costs down: regulating the insurance industry.