Q: What is the actual percentage of annual U.S. healthcare costs that tort reform would address? — Jean Reber, Duluth

— Jean Reber, Duluth

A: The percentages vary, depending on the source, but the highest reported percentage is from a PricewaterhouseCoopers study that looked at wasteful spending in the health care system and found 10 percent of health costs are “attributed to too much care in the form of defensive medicine and associated legal costs.” That equates to about $210 billion annually. The April 2008 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute says the costs stretch across physician, outpatient, hospital, drugs and other medical services.

Q: I have heard about a program or agency called the Healthy Marriage Initiative, which I believe came into existence during the first term of George W. Bush’s presidency. Can you tell me what exactly it is supposed to do and how much it costs the taxpayers per year?

—Philip J. Neujahr, Atlanta

A: The Healthy Marriage Initiative receives funding of $150 million annually for the promotion of healthy marriages and fatherhood. The money is used for research, projects and activities that encourage healthy marriages and promote “involved, committed, and responsible fatherhood” by public and private entities and provides technical assistance for the states, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children & Families, which oversees the program (www.acf.hhs.gov/healthymarriage). Those activities include public advertising campaigns, education in high schools, marriage and parenting education and mentoring programs.

Lori Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or e-mail q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).

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