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Excerpts from:  Health Reform Requires Lawsuit Reform

But tort lawyers are the one special interest Democrats won't offend. 

By PHILIP K. HOWARD    WSJ, Jul 15, 2009

Containing health-care costs is impossible under the current legal structure. That fact has to be addressed if President Barack Obama is to create an affordable health-care system that is accessible to everyone.

Every incentive in the system now is to do more -- that's how doctors get paid and that's how doctors get protected from lawsuits. Billions of dollars are wasted in "defensive medicine." Bureaucracy built up over decades diverts resources from patient care to mindless compliance. Forms are everywhere.

Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that the current ad hoc system of justice, with verdicts that vary widely from one jury to the next, has spawned a culture of legal fear and self protection. Studies also show that the system fails injured patients -- a claim takes an average of five years to resolve and nearly 60 cents out of every dollar spent in the malpractice system ends up going to lawyers or administrative costs.

The only path to affordable health care is a basic overhaul to realign incentives. The new ideas are out there -- for example, creating a reimbursement model that rewards effective care, and restoring trust in the reliability of justice by creating special health courts.

Fear is the tool not of leadership but of the status quo. It could hardly be easier to scare people into keeping programs and institutions the way they are. But that only delays the day of reckoning.

 Congress is mortgaging our children's future. Cost containment must be a goal. Protecting trial lawyers is not the solution.

Mr. Howard, a lawyer and author, is chairman of Common Good.