MEDICAL CARE IN AMERICA….The United States spends about $6,000 per person on healthcare each year. Could we reduce this figure if we adopted the tort reform laws President Bush is touting? Let’s roll the tape:

Malpractice awards in the United States amounted to only $16 per capita in 2001, compared with $12 in Britain and $10 in Australia, [a] team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found.

Hmmm. $16. So if it’s not malpractice awards, why does American healthcare cost so much more than in other countries? Mark Eisenberg, head of cardiovascular epidemiology at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, has just released a study on heart bypass surgery, an area in which American medicine excels:

The research, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that heart bypass surgery, a common procedure, costs an average of $10,373 in Canada, compared with $20,673 in the United States.

….Despite the significantly higher costs in the United States (they are essentially double those in Canada), the rate of complications and death after bypass surgery was similar in both countries.

“All this extra technology, all this extra spending, does not lead to improved survival,” Dr. Eisenberg said.

Instead of obsessing over the reason we spend $16 per person on malpractice awards, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on the reason we spend an extra $10,000 on heart bypass surgery? It might not produce the answer that conservative ideologues want to hear, but it might produce an answer that actually leads to solving the problem.