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Dick Armey, Big Shot

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Dick Armey, Big Shot"

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Apparently Dick Armey is a jackass:

In one of our conversations about health care, Armey argued that tort reform would significantly cut costs because doctors, with less fear of huge malpractice judgments, would no longer order every possible test. I asked if it might not be patients who sometimes insisted on unneeded tests. As an example, I mentioned that I had recently suffered an athletic injury, a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, and underwent surgery after my orthopedist examined me clinically and said he was sure of his diagnosis. I didn’t ask for any further diagnostic exams, but I suspect that some patients, conditioned to accept the perceived scientific certainty of M.R.I.’s and other scans, would have insisted on more sophisticated measures. “I’d have gotten the M.R.I.,” Armey said. “I’m a big shot, and doctors sure as hell don’t want to be sued by a big shot. He would not even have dared ask. He would have just sent me for the test.”

Later, in North Carolina, we sat down to dinner, and he said: “You ever see that Danny DeVito movie, I think it was Danny DeVito, where he says big shots never order off the menu? They just say what they want.” We were at an On the Border, a Tex-Mex restaurant chain and not the type of place I imagine many big shots patronize, but he pushed the menu aside without reading it and told the waiter what he wanted the kitchen to cook up for him.

On the merits of the issue, no matter how large an impact you want to attribute to fear of lawsuits, changing this would be a one-time thing. What’s scary about health care isn’t that it costs a lot (though it does) but that the rate of growth is so high. Lawsuits don’t deal with that.

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