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HEALTHCARE: AMERICA’S REAL DEFENSE PROBLEM


The U.S. has a defense problem. I am not talking about missiles, grenades, and F-16s. I am talking about defensive medicine. Because physicians are so fearful of lawsuits, they order more tests and perform more procedures than medical guidelines would recommend. We all know that the U.S. spends a great deal on health care, roughly one-sixth of GDP. An aging population requires more care, of course. (Consider: in 1900 families spent twice as much on funerals as on medicine!)


A new study concludes that defensive medicine drives up healthcare spending by an additional 5 percent. How do co-authors Michael Frake and Jonathan Gruber know? They looked at data from the Military Health System and compared the treatment of active-duty patients (who are barred from filing malpractice lawsuits) to the treatment of non-active-duty patients. By the way, this study cannot be tossed aside as a conservative think tank screed. Co-author Gruber is oft-noted as the architect of Obamacare. We can all agree, I hope, that patients should receive the treatment they need, not the treatment that their doctor’s lawyer insists on.

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