Tort Reform – Study Shows Savings Are Mythical
September 22, 2014
The idea that Tort Reform was going to have any effect on the cost of American Health Care system has been shown time and time again to be nothing but a myth. Tort Reform has been, and continues to be an effort to prevent victims of medical negligence to seek reasonable compensation for their injuries and the cost of dealing with those injuries in the past, present and more importantly the future. It stands to reason that the Insurance Industry gains but limiting recoveries and even reducing verdicts–never mind that a verdict in favor of a plaintiff is by definition evidence that the case just tried was not frivolous!–after a jury has deliberated on the evidence presented.
Tort reform,” which is usually billed as the answer to “frivolous malpractice lawsuits,” has been a central plank in the Republican program for healthcare reform for decades.
The notion has lived on despite copious evidence that that the so-called defensive medicine practiced by doctors merely to stave off lawsuits accounts for, at best, 2% to 3% of U.S. healthcare costs. As for “frivolous lawsuits,” they’re a problem that exists mostly in the minds of conservatives and the medical establishment.
A new study led by Michael B. Rothberg of the Cleveland Clinic and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association aimed to measure how much defensive medicine there is, really, and how much it costs. The researchers’ conclusion is that defensive medicine accounts for about 2.9% of healthcare spending. In other words, out of the estimated $2.7-trillion U.S. healthcare bill, defensive medicine accounts for $78 billion.
As Aaron Carroll observes at the AcademyHealth blog, $78 billion is “not chump change … but it’s still a very small component of overall health care spending.” Any “tort reform” stringent enough to make that go away would likely create other costs, such as a rise in medical mistakes generated by the elimination of the oversight exercised by the court system.
Since it doesn’t appear that “tort reform” would have any effect on this spending, Carroll says, “there seems little reason to pursue it as a means to dramatically reduce health care spending in the United States.”