Charles Krauthammer Proposes a Reasonable Way to Start Healthcare Reform

He’s already written a superb couple of columns about why Obamacare is sinking and why Obama is retreating from it.

Now, he’s got a couple of novel ideas on how we can begin the reform of our healthcare system. He gives us these in his latest piece at the Washington Post.

First, he sums up why Obamacare will fail:

In overhauling any segment of our economy, the 1986 tax reform should be the model. Yet today’s ruling Democrats propose to fix our extremely high-quality (but inefficient and therefore expensive) health-care system with 1,000 pages of additional curlicued complexity — employer mandates, individual mandates, insurance company mandates, allocation formulas, political payoffs and myriad other conjured regulations and interventions — with the promise that this massive concoction will lower costs.

This is all quite mad. It creates a Rube Goldberg system that simply multiplies the current inefficiencies and arbitrariness, thus producing staggering deficits with less choice and lower-quality care. That’s why the administration can’t sell Obamacare.

For some reason, likely Obama’s arrogance and obsession with popularity, he can’t for the life of him understand that the people might actually like the status quo better than the proposed cure itself. The Democrats are surprised that the people might actually disagree with their healthcare plan.

And no, Dick Durbin, we’re not there about the Youtube. We’re there to make sure you hear how opposed we are to your healthcare plan. Of course, you’re so courageous in standing up to “the mob” that you just backed down and said you’d be open to having no public option, didn’t you?

The No. 2 Senate Democrat said Sunday that he’s “open” to health care reform that doesn’t include a government-run “public option,” the latest indication that the Democrats’ package could be scaled back as Senate negotiators try to hammer out a bipartisan compromise and constituents flood town halls to express discontent with the current legislation.

But I digress…

Anyways, Krauthammer has proposed two great ideas on where to start.

The first, is tort reform. Gee, haven’t we heard about that before?

(1) Tort reform: As I wrote recently, our crazy system of casino malpractice suits results in massive and random settlements that raise everyone’s insurance premiums and creates an epidemic of defensive medicine that does no medical good, yet costs a fortune.

An authoritative Massachusetts Medical Society study found that five out of six doctors admitted they order tests, procedures and referrals — amounting to about 25 percent of the total — solely as protection from lawsuits. Defensive medicine, estimates the libertarian/conservative Pacific Research Institute, wastes more than $200 billion a year. Just half that sum could provide a $5,000 health insurance grant — $20,000 for a family of four — to the uninsured poor (U.S. citizens ineligible for other government health assistance).

What to do? Abolish the entire medical-malpractice system. Create a new social pool from which people injured in medical errors or accidents can draw. The adjudication would be done by medical experts, not lay juries giving away lottery prizes at the behest of the liquid-tongued John Edwardses who pocket a third of the proceeds.

The pool would be funded by a relatively small tax on all health-insurance premiums. Socialize the risk; cut out the trial lawyers. Would that immunize doctors from carelessness or negligence? No. The penalty would be losing your medical license. There is no more serious deterrent than forfeiting a decade of intensive medical training and the livelihood that comes with it.

Good idea right? Unfortunately, it won’t have a chance in Hell. Why? BecauseJohn McCain wanted it.

And there’s also the little fact of the Democrats’ love affair with the trial lawyers (John Edwards, anyone?).

The second idea Krauthammer proposes is delinking health insurance and the workplace.

(2) Real health-insurance reform: Tax employer-provided health-care benefits and return the money to the employee with a government check to buy his own medical insurance, just as he buys his own car or home insurance.

There is no logical reason to get health insurance through your employer. This entire system is an accident of World War II wage and price controls. It’s economically senseless. It makes people stay in jobs they hate, decreasing labor mobility and therefore overall productivity. And it needlessly increases the anxiety of losing your job by raising the additional specter of going bankrupt through illness.

The health-care benefit exemption is the largest tax break in the entire U.S. budget, costing the government a quarter-trillion dollars annually. It hinders health-insurance security and portability as well as personal independence. If we additionally eliminated the prohibition on buying personal health insurance across state lines, that would inject new and powerful competition that would lower costs for everyone.

Sounds like a good idea, right? But the Democrats are frightened by the thought that the people might actually be able to make choices for themselves. Scary, no? If you’re a Democrat, it is because, generally, those are the sort of people that vote them out of office.

Also, there is one other thing that will prevent this from happening. Yep, that’s right, John McCain supported it.

Repealing the exemption has one fatal flaw, however. It was advocated by candidate John McCain. Obama so demagogued it last year that he cannot bring it up now without being accused of the most extreme hypocrisy and without being mercilessly attacked with his own 2008 ads.

So, that’s a no go, right, Mr. Obama?

Mr. Krauthammer is a brilliant man. Unfortunately, his brilliance is lost on those of the political class. Well, chiefly those of the Democratic persuasion.