Is Tort Reform Really the Solution to High Health Care Costs?

Is Tort Reform Really the Solution to High Health Care Costs?

Recent Health Affairs Reports Give a Resounding “No”

According to studies published in the most recent edition of the health care industry journal Health Affairs, medical liability costs (i.e., those spent in defense of, or to prevent, medical malpractice actions) is a mere 2.4 percent of America’s overall health care budget. These studies, performed by a joint group of researchers, attorneys and doctors, present conclusions that directly contradict the popular view that medical malpractice/negligence lawsuits are the leading cause of the so-called “health care crisis.”

Important findings of the study include:

  • So-called “defensive medicine,” where tests, procedures and medications are ordered that might not otherwise be performed, with the sole intent of warding of potential medical negligence accusations that may arise in the future, has not been conclusively proven to increase medical malpractice premiums or significantly contribute to overall health care costs
  • Even if medical liability costs seem high when taken out of context – they amount to about $56 billion per year – they are only a tiny portion (2.4 percent) of the annual total of well over $2 trillion
  • The sizable savings represented by a 10 percent drop in malpractice insurance premiums (the logical result of medical malpractice liability reforms) would still be less than 1 percent of health care costs

These studies clearly indicate that medical-related tort reform is not the solution to repair America’s broken health care system. The costs of medical malpractice actions are not significantly raising the price of treatment, prescriptions or routine preventative medicine. It can even be argued that the very idea of “defensive medicine” is actually helping make patients safer – how many diagnoses have been made based upon tests that never would have been performed and screenings that never would have been ordered but for the doctor’s insistence on being thorough?

From that perspective, tort reform would only serve to lower malpractice insurance premiums for the physicians and erode the rights of patients who have suffered at the hands of a negligent medical provider. For now, thankfully, patients still have the ability to hold reckless doctors and hospitals accountable for the harms they cause. If you or a loved one has been injured as because of medical malpractice, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.

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