FOLLOW THE MONEY

I was out of town and missed last week’s post, so it’s time for a pent-up rant. An associate of mine brought up the old saw, “if you want to understand what’s happening, follow the money.” It’s as true as ever.

I’ve complained that many of the problems in the current health care system, including those attributable to doctors, are related to the way things are compensated. Money is important and necessary, but can readily distort the way systems function if the reimbursements are improperly applied. Might this relate to the legal system as well?

In the wake of reading a piece by John Stossel about tort lawyers that you can find here, I learned first-hand how the system is structured. It seems when a malpractice complaint is made, a wide net is cast to get as many fish as possible, kind of like grabbing the dolphins with the tuna. I used to think the dolphins were thrown back, but now I understand that the system has discovered you can safely carve off a little dolphin meat without sacrificing the whole animal. To be a bit more specific, if you can find physicians involved with the plaintiff that are not directly involved in the complaint, or who cared for him within the last few years outside of the circumstances related to the complaint, you can corral them long enough to get a few lawyers’ salaries paid prior to the case even being brought to trial. When I asked one lawyer about this, he candidly admitted there’s a lot of fat in the system (I’m broadly paraphrasing but believe I’ve captured the “spirit” of the comment, for those of you of legal sensibilities).

Well, I’m happy to say that our medical institutions appear to be less dysfunctional than what I’ve seen of the legal system, if one can derive satisfaction from being a lesser “evil.”

I plan to see as little as possible of the rest of it.

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