The Guest Blog

Tony Fratto: Hey Mr. President, What About all Those Lawyers?

If President Obama had been a car salesman instead of a lawyer, maybe we could all just go back to the manager's office and "see what the numbers will do" to try to figure out health care reform.

But we don't have a car salesman for a president, we have a lawyer. And with him, the bar has found a steadfast ally in the Oval Office.

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President Obama has castigated other professions-insurance companies are cheaters; doctors have been likened to monsters who would willy nilly amputate their patients' limbs; bankers are "shameless".

Each of these professions finds itself in the Administration’s crosshairs with the prospect of limits on pay or profit and increased regulation.

But what about lawyers, who annually–and deservedly-occupy a slot as one of the most unpopular professions in America (along with politicians and the members of media)?

Not a word about lawyers from Obama-nothing about the skyrocketing rates of medical malpractice insurance causing doctors to flee high-premium jurisdictions. Nothing about the threat of lawsuits leaving doctors and hospitals little choice but to practice defensive medicine, administering all those “needless” and expensive medical services the president so often decries. And nothing about law firms churning out claims like an assembly-line factory, and generating outrageous fees.

On now:

President Obama apparently believes that costs in health care are completely untethered from one of the most expensive costs for every deliverer of service in the health care system – doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmaceutical firms, and medical device manufacturers.

The costs associated with medical malpractice litigation are real, and they’re passed along through the system every bit as much as the costs of treating the uninsured are passed through. And the threat of lawsuits inverts the doctor’s incentives to administer sufficient, but not excessive, care to patients.

Tort reform and fixing the medical malpractice insurance system in the U.S. isn’t a “silver bullet” that will fix health care, but it’s a necessary element of comprehensive health care reform. No health care reform should pass without it.

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Tony Fratto is a CNBC on-air contributor and most recently served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Press Secretary for the Bush Administration.