Malpractice Adds Less than 3 Percent to Healthcare Tab
September 14, 2010
Time and time again we come to the same conclusion that Tort Reform is not the magic bullet it is made out to be and it will not reduce the cost of healthcare in any significant and substantive fashion. If the idea is to simply prevent the consumer from getting compensation for the injuries they have sustained, then, the debate should be concentrated on the merits of preventing victims of injury from reaching the courthouse. That would be a totally different debate.
Costs associated with medical malpractice added about $55.6 billion to the nations total healthcare costs in 2008 — roughly 2.4% of a more than $2.3-trillion tab — and most of that money went to pay for tests, procedures, and treatments associated with defensive medicine, according to an analysis by Harvard researchers.The estimate by a research team that included Atul A. Gawande, MD, of Harvard Medical School, is considerably less than “some imaginative estimates put forth in the health reform debate, and it represents a small fraction of total healthcare spending. Yet in absolute dollars, the amount is not trivial,” they wrote.The analysis was published online today and in the September issue of Health Affairs as part of a package of articles aimed at exploring “Physicians Misperception of Malpractice Lawsuits,” according to a press release issued by the journal.A second paper by J. William Thomas, PhD, of the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy at the University of Southern Maine, in Portland, and colleagues, analyzed the costs of defensive medicine across 35 medical specialties and concluded that “defensive medicine practices exist and are widespread, but their impact on medical costs is small.”So small, they wrote, that tort reform changes that would reduce medical malpractice premiums by 10% would only reduce the nations total medical costs by 0.120% to 0.134%.Taken together, the papers suggest that promoting tort reform as a means to control healthcare costs is a straw man, and their conclusions run contrary to the figures cited by supporters of tort reform.