If the White House indeed takes on tort reform this year, it will be interesting to see if any meaningful legislation results and what effect it might have on health care. Doctors in this litigious age tend to practice defensive medicine, and that means more use of expensive imaging technology — as our cover story makes clear.
"It is a conundrum," says William Corwin, MD, medical director for utilization management and clinical policy for Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. "Where does your judgment and confidence in your diagnosis preclude your concern about the judicial system? Doctors tend to err on the side of ordering the test. What they need to do is pause and ask themselves, Will ordering this $1,500 test change the way I manage this case?"
The story does not lay all the blame at the feet of physician, of course. The problem of imaging costs is complex, and author Maureen Glabman describes that complexity — and the techniques of plans that do a good job on this — with aplomb.
And while Harvard Pilgrim, along with every other insurer, has imaging problems, it apparently has no image problem, as our story about that company's recent fortunes makes clear. Much of the credit for Harvard Pilgrim's amazing turnaround goes to CEO Charles Baker, whose hands-on approach includes seeing how the claims process works for his own family. "I have a wife and kids, and we have the same things going on as everybody else," says Baker.
Well, not exactly the same things. A lot of families may include parents who have made a name for themselves in business. But how many have a father who is now being mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts? The business community, says the Boston Globe, "adores Baker's braininess," and Democratic politicians "respect it." Interesting.