Sometime around 1780-70 B.C., the Babylonian King Hammurabi promulgated the now famous Code of Hammurabi, covering both civil and criminal law. The code is said to have informed both Jewish and Islamic law. Remarkably, it has echoes also in modern health policy in the United States. Not all of these laws have survived the millennia. Relative to Hammurabi's draconian medical malpractice code, for example, modern medical malpractice penalties represent mere slaps on the wrist. On the other hand, our modern, differentiated payment system for health care does resemble the Code of Hammurabi in some respects.