Sunday, June 14, 2009

Too bad Barack never met Ben Lawton

There are people in life you are privilged to have known.

The late Ben Lawton is one of them.

Ben Lawton died in 1987. He was only 64 but had a rich life which included being a cardiac surgeon, president of the Marshfield Clinic and University of Wisconsin regent.

What impressed me the most about Ben Lawton was his ability to speak for the common man.

On the cost of medical education: "If I had to pay what these kids do now, I'd still be driving a beer truck."

On the high cost of medical care: "Do you need $70,000 in tests for a 70 cent answer?"

Ben Lawton was no country quack. He helped bring top quality health care to the rural areas of central Wisconsin -- "gold card" care by urban standards.

And he and his cohorts did it in such a way to avoid duplication of costs and services.

As Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and others look for ways to deal with their health care issue, it's too bad Ben Lawton isn't around to advise them.

One thing I think he'd point out is that you'll never do anything meaningful if you don't control insanely spiraling costs.

Simply stated, the health care industry has run amok and just throwing money at it -- our money -- won't fix it. (Of course, the auto industry "bailout" model should work for them, shouldn't it? Nah.)

Cost containment. Reducing paperwork burdens and duplication of services. Caps on unnecessary spending by health care providers. Ferreting out corruption and kickbacks.

These are just a few ideas to get the ball rolling. It's time that health care provders return to acting like health care professionals instead of car salesmen.


Dad29 said...


There are two sides to that story, RAG.

Some docs/hospitals over-test because there are such things as stupid (but settle-able!!) lawsuits.

RAG said...

Could be but the numbers don't bear that out. Very few malpractice claims succeed.

Dad29 said...


The numbers I saw say that the lawsuits cost about 2-4% of total health-care spending AND that the preventive/defensive tests add another 5-9%.

There ARE savings which can be obtained through 'systemic' refinements and re-engineering--probably 10% or more. This would be in efficiency/efficacy things--what "lean manufacturing" is all about (in brief and not-nuanced language.)

Let's go there first.

RAG said...

I think the reality is that there are more instances of bad medical practice that aren't brought to the light of day.

Ironically, physicians are subject to a smidgen of regulation compared to other professions, including lawyers.

That said, there is a real duplicity at work here. Before government regulation, safe practices were ensured by civil liability: you screw up, you pay.

Interesting how people who on the one hand decry regulation pull out the other hand and complain about enforcement via civil liability which, traditionally, was the means of enforcing safety in American society.

This is not to say there aren't bullshit lawsuits but there are also many instances where suits could have been brought but weren't. Neither is a good situation.

Would that I could I would also put a clamp down on lawyer advertising which is often tremendously misleading.