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When it comes to his latest attempts to drum up support for his health-care overhaul, I wonder if President Obama will include in his bill the following very important issues about "tort" reform. From what Howard Dean and others have reported, I will be very, very surprised if he does!"Medical liability in Massachusetts has become an extraordinary burden on our health care system. It produces years of litigation, financial inefficiencies, a culture of secrecy and a “blame game” mentality, plus unaffordable premiums for physicians. It is dysfunctional for physicians and patients.Harvard School of Public Health Professor Michelle Mello has described it aptly: “For compensation, deterrence, corrective justice, efficiency and collateral effects, the system gets low or failing grades.”The latest indication of the system’s failings comes from a survey of Massachusetts physicians about the practice of defensive medicine: tests, imaging, referrals, consultations and hospitalizations ordered by physicians out of the fear of being sued.The survey is the first of its kind to quantify defensive practices across a wide spectrum and among a number of specialties, as well as the first to link such data directly with Medicare cost data. The study, conducted by the Massachusetts Medical Society, found that 83 percent of physicians reported practicing defensive medicine and that an average of 18-28 percent of tests, procedures, referrals and consultations and 13 percent of hospitalizations were ordered for defensive reasons. The costs of these practices, in part, were conservatively estimated at $1.4 billion."But that number falls short of the real costs: the survey queried physicians in just eight specialties, accounting for only 46 percent of the physicians in the state. The estimate doesn’t include tests and procedures ordered by physicians in other specialties and it doesn’t account for observation admissions to hospitals, specialty referrals and consultations or unnecessary prescriptions.And this is also a very important consideration ....Reduced access to care, through the avoidance of high-risk procedures and high-risk patients, is another concern. The survey found that 38 percent of physicians reduced the number of high-risk services they perform and that 28 percent reduced the number of high-risk patients they serve. These findings are similar to previous studies. Over a five-year period, MMS workforce studies have found an average of 44-48 percent of physicians saying they alter or limit services due to the fear of litigation.”Conclusion: We need to control “medical liability” costs and reduce the expensive practice of "defensive medicine" before we go with and implement a new, “one-size-fits-all” National Health Care plan!
More Mis-information! Pathetic!
Yeah, Tort Reform. If you were to eliminate medical malpractice liability, even forgetting the negative consequences that would have for safety, accountability, and responsiveness, maybe we’d be talking about 1.5 percent of health care costs. So we’re not talking about real money. It’s small relative to the out-of-control cost of health care.
As for what’s often called “defensive medicine, is probably good in general in that it makes doctors more careful with patient records. They spend more time with the patient. They’re more careful to say hello and goodbye to the patient. That’s good. Health economists agree that “defensive medicine” is not the main driver of costs, and malpractice liability reform is not a panacea.
Annual jury awards and legal settlements involving doctors amounts to “a drop in the bucket” in a country that spends $2.3 trillion annually on health care, Amitabh Chandra, a Harvard University economist, estimated the cost of jury awards at about $12 per person in the U.S., or about $3.6 billion a year. Insurer WellPoint Inc. has also said that liability awards are not what’s driving premiums.
Medical Malpractice makes up only 2% of U.S. health spending.
Over 30 states now cap damages in medical lawsuits.
Did you know that only about two of every 100 patients injured by malpractice ever receive compensations?