Krauthammer On Fixing Health Care: Tort Reform, Insurance Across State Lines, Alter Ratio The Young Pay


Charles Krauthammer laid out several things he would do to reform health care in an appearance on Tuesday's broadcast of Tucker Carlson Tonight. Krauthammer talked about doctors practicing "defensive medicine" and the amount that would be saved through tort reform, the ability to buy insurance across state lines and altering the proportion that the old pay compared to the young. Transcript, via FOX News:

TUCKER CARLSON: We spent some time on on on this show following the drama of the Republican health care bill. We talk with the Secretary of HHS last night asking questions like, will it pass, what senators are defecting, what demands are being made, how many people lose insurance coverage. Those are all important questions. But once it's allowed, it's important to take a step back and remember the point of all of this.

Fixing a health care system that is deeply broken for tens of millions of Americans. So, if you had absolute power, what would you do to improve American health care?

Charles Krauthammer is the perfect man to ask that question. He's an author and a columnist. He's also a physician. He went to Harvard Medical School and so he joins us now to explain what we should do in a perfect world.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I think the first thing is to recognize a mistake that Obama made. And others have made in thinking that you can revolutionize a system that's unbelievably complex and interlinked, one-sixth of the economy. That was a mistake because whenever you change one thing, it changes 80 other things, and now if you're changing everything at once, you have no idea what the outcome is going to be and you get all of these unintended side effects. So, I think what you need first of all is modesty. And I think it should not --

CARLSON: Modesty?

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes. I know that's a commodity you can't even really purchase in Washington.

CARLSON: It's true.

KRAUTHAMMER: It is available in other parts of the world. Monasteries, for example. Where was I? Okay, the first thing you do is to say we're going to go with this piece by piece.


KRAUTHAMMER: The first one that is the biggest, lowest hanging fruit, and that was not even touched by ObamaCare, scandalously is toward reform. The medical malpractice system is totally out of control. Everybody in the system knows it. And it's not just of the outrageous judgments, it's not just the fact that some people get millions of dollars, others get nothing, and the one people who get rich are lawyered, it's just that it causes doctors to practice defensive medicine.


KRAUTHAMMER: There was a survey done by the Massachusetts Medical Society that found that doctors admitted that about one quarter of all procedures, examinations, hospitalizations, and tests were done to fend off the lawyers, not for medical reasons. I know that, I was there. I did the same thing. You had to do it. If you are working in a hospital, somebody said just in passing that he had some pain near his chest, you kept him overnight because otherwise the lawyers would kill you if something happened. Whereas if you are doing it for medical reasons, you might observe him for a couple of hours and sent him home.

CARLSON: Because there's a cost of staying overnight. Not just economic --

KRAUTHAMMER: The causes are massive.


KRAUTHAMMER: If one quarter of procedures and tests are done for legal reasons and not medical reasons, we are talking hundreds of billions of dollars a year. It could be up to half a trillion dollars a year. Imagine if you cut that in half with a rational reform system, you could use that money to subsidize the health insurance for every poor person in America. This is just one of -- and the only reason the Democrats did not included in a bill of 2,000 pages was because they are owned by the trial lawyers.

CARLSON: There are single biggest donors. Could there any yacht basin in the Caribbean and I asked, what percentage of the yacht are owned by trial lawyers? It will be over 10 percent.

KRAUTHAMMER: And a lot of that is sucked out of medicine.

CARLSON: Yes. Now, that's a really good point. There's the first thing you would be is meaningful towards reform.

KRAUTHAMMER: When I went to school, the smart kids either went to medicine or law. The smartest of the ones who went into law, because they made the laws that have essentially taxed and stolen the income of the doctors that ends up in the legal profession. That's number one. Towards reform. And it can be done as a piece. It doesn't have to be done as part of the comprehensive.


KRAUTHAMMER: Second, this is obviously easier and a lot shorter, is allow people to buy health insurance across state lines. It's now a state issue, it's not rational. You can buy auto insurance across state lines.

CARLSON: What's the opposition to that rooted in?

KRAUTHAMMER: I really don't -- I've never heard a very good argument. It could be that the legal structure right now is that health insurance is the province of each state.


KRAUTHAMMER: So that if you open -- look, I'm making a case for something I don't believe, if you opened it up there would be what they call a race to the bottom. People would want the cheapest insurance. Well, I would say, what the hell, why not allow them to buy the insurance they want? Isn't as a free country with auto insurance, you buy whatever level of insurance you want. So, that would be the obvious and second one.

And the other thing I would do is, this is a little complicated. I'm about to go into Governor Perry territory where I forget the third but I do remember the third, and that is, you've got to recognize that you can't make the young and the healthy subsidize the rich. That's what ObamaCare did.


KRAUTHAMMER: They hiked up the premiums for the young and the healthy, which by the normal tables, they pay about a sixth of what the elderly do. They ended up, the Democrats to create it would be only a third. So, they were paying twice what they were getting. So what does a rational young person do?

CARLSON: Opt out.

KRAUTHAMMER: Opt out, exactly. What's left, only the sink of the pool, and the system is in collapse. The government has to say, we are going to take care of the very sick, establish an open transparent government role. And then have the rest of the market open to the healthier people and their premiums will be kept low. That's the way to do it. Nobody wanted to do it. Obama wanted to hide it. Hide the costs. But the young people aren't stupid and they didn't buy it.

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