Sarah Palin gives punditry another try today, with this interesting Facebook note: No Health Care Reform Without Legal Reform. Because healthcare reform is legally based, I was a bit confused, yet intrigued, by the title. Palin, however, makes her case quickly.
Palin wants to tie healthcare reform with tort reform. Tort reform is just as central to old-school Republican platforms as are preaching the horrors of socialized medicine, blaming illegal aliens for the nation's woes, and opposing abortion and same-sex anything.
Palin extensively quotes Stuart Weinstein, a medical doctor and a longstanding proponent of tort reform. She also references experiences with tort reform in Alaska and Texas. Palin argues that reforming the tort system is essential for lowering costs. I will not even debate Palin's claim -- because others have addressed the argument already.
Instead, I have some more fundamental questions for the former Governor.
Medical malpractice suits are rooted in state tort law (for the most part). By what authority can the federal government take control of this specific aspect of state court systems, legislatures, juries and law practice? This seems to undermine three mainstays of conservatism: states' rights, federalism and deregulation.
If, as many conservatives have argued, healthcare reform represents a severe intrusion into the interests of states and private citizens, then a federal law that caps liability for medical malpractice suits does the same. The reform Palin proposes would regulate damage awards in 50 states. It would interfere with the jury process and administration of justice in every state. It would prevent private parties from seeking remedies that the law in their states otherwise make available.
Just as Palin argues that "Obamacare" would interfere with patients, their doctors and insurance companies, PalinLaw would interfere with patients, their lawyers, and juries. And speaking of "death panels," PalinLaw would allow the federal government to set the maximum value recoverable in a wrongful death action in all states. So, to borrow from Senator Grassley, if the doctor kills "grandma" PalinLaw would determine the maximum value that grandma was worth. If this is permissible, then conservatives should abandon or at least temper their rhetoric opposing healthcare reform (and other national policies).
Don't Hold Uninsured Patients Hostage to Fulfill Political Agendas
Second, why should the public hold healthcare reform hostage to bring about tort reform? Congress should not enmesh the explosive question of healthcare reform with the equally controversial topic of tort reform. This is just another argument for doing nothing.
Under Palin's logic, the public should tie healthcare reform with a cure for cancer. Cancer adds greatly to healthcare costs. So do heart attacks and heart disease -- and to a much greater extent than litigation.
If the public waits until medical researchers find a solution for these issues, then the cost of reforming healthcare would plunge. This would alleviate the concerns that many people have regarding the expense of a system overhaul. Wait, wait, wait and do nothing.