President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, James P. Hoffa, correctly identifies many of the symptoms of the ongoing national health care debacle but is completely wrong about the underlying disease.

Our nation is facing an urgent crisis. Companies, workers and all levels of our government have an equal stake in this fight. Our nation's health care system is broken. America must act now.

General Motors Corp. is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and Delphi Corp. is already there, largely because of the amount of money they spend on health care for their employees.

GM spends more on health care for its workers than on steel for its cars. GM estimates that it spends $1,500 in health care costs for every car it produces. It paid out about $5.8 billion for health care in 2005. That competitive disadvantage largely explains why the Big Three automakers have eliminated or announced plans to eliminate nearly 140,000 jobs since 2000. ...

Despite these increases -- and maybe even because of them -- there are now more than 46 million Americans without insurance. That's over 15 percent of the population. In 2000, it was 39 million, and it was 31 million in 1987, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

America is spending more and more on health care to cover fewer and fewer people poorly.

Health care costs are destroying our nation's economic edge. The cards are stacked against American companies as they try to compete with low-cost, low-wage foreign producers.

All of this is true, but Mr. Hoffa's proposed solution would certainly make the situation worse.

The only real solution to this crisis is national health care. Meeting such a basic need should not force government budgets, companies and workers into the red. As the crisis grows, more and more Americans, workers and corporate leaders alike, are calling for government action.

Government action is needed, but what the government needs to do is reform the legal malpractice system to protect health care providers from the lawsuits that consume billions of dollars per year in direct costs (e.g., ridiculous payouts) and indirect costs (e.g., unneeded tests).

Teri Robert has collected an array of facts that will astound you and hopefully convince you that we don't need more regulation of health care, we need more regulation of lawsuits.

- Lawsuit costs passed on to consumers add up to nearly $721 per year for every person in America today. - Because of litigation fears, 79% of doctors said they had ordered more tests than they would based only on professional judgment of what is medically needed. - It takes at least a year to resolve most lawsuits, and delays of three to five years are not uncommon. Unfortunately, injured people with legitimate claims can wait years before their cases go to trial. - An estimated $50 billion per year is spent on unnecessary test procedures designed only to guard doctors and hospitals against malpractice claims. - Almost half of the money spent by physician insurers goes towards defending cases that ultimately are closed without compensation paid to the claimant.

And so forth. Rather than turning over one-fifth of our economy to the federal government as Mr. Hoffa proposes -- which never makes anything cheaper, better, or more efficient -- let's limit these lawsuits in a way to leads to better health care rather than just richer lawyers.

The second step, more controversially, is to slash the government regulation of physicians and medication. Rather than require all practicing physicians to be certified by a government-approved authority, the government should simply require that physicians disclose their credentials and leave the certifications to private organizations (as is done in most professional fields). This would open the door for thousands of lower-cost, lower-skill physicians who would be more than able to treat common maladies like colds and broken bones. You don't need an MD to set a broken arm, so why should you have to pay for one? Because currently the government says so. Medication is similar. Consumers need the government to ensure that drug companies disclose all the potential side-effects of their products, but we don't need the FDA to tell us what we can and can't put in our bodies if we're willing to take known risks.



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