IS DEFENSIVE MEDICINE THE REASON FOR THE HIGH COST OF HEALTHCARE?
Doctors, hospitals and insurance companies often say that the high cost of healthcare in this country is due to the fact that healthcare providers must practice what they refer to as "defensive medicine." This means that they do more than medically necessary to diagnose and treat a patient because they are afraid of being sued. This argument is universally used to argue for limiting the rights of patients to sue (tort reform) and to justify the high and ever increasing cost of care. A study performed by the Center for Progressive Reform which was published in March in Healthcare Finance News proves that the facts are otherwise.
According to the study, the costs of malpractice insurance plus the costs of paying injured patients amount to only 0.3 percent of total healthcare costs each year. Said in a different way, the total cost of the entire healthcare liability system is 0.3% of the cost of healthcare! Clearly, malpractice cases are not responsible for the most expensive care in the world nor the annual 10% growth in the cost of care and health care insurance premiums we have come to expect as normal.
The study states that the true culprits are the "high costs of prescription drugs; the high demand for, and increasing use of, state-of-the art technology; the growing incidence of chronic diseases; and an aging population that lives longer and consumes more medical care."
Preventable medical errors lead to more than 98,000 deaths and cost the healthcare system $17 billion to $29 billion each year. The incidence of medical errors has not changed since the Institute of Medicine released its landmark study of the problem more than 10 years ago.
Patients and lawyers aren’t the problem, it’s the healthcare providers and those that profit form keeping the healthcare system just as it is: expensive, profitable and growing.
MORE ABOUT THE HOAX OF DEFENSIVE MEDICINE
Doctors and insurance companies have long contended that doctors order more tests and procedures than are medically necessary in order to avoid litigation. This argument has been used all over the country to justify so-called "medical malpractice reform" that protects health care providers from lawsuits. This tactic was successful in Texas. I remember well that Governor Perry said lawsuits were running doctors out of Texas and that defensive medicine was making medical care more expensive and less available to everyone. The problem is, it just wasn’t true.
According to The Boston Globe, doctors at an April medical conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts seemed to agree that medical malpractice litigation is not the primary culprit in the rising cost of medical care. One speaker, Dr. Jerome Hoffman, a professor of medicine at UCLA and USC, said "Malpractice is such an unimportant element of what is going on." Another expert, Amitabh Chandra, an economist and professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, said ordering tests and procedures to avoid lawsuits was not a significant driver of costs. In fact, according to Chandra, the total cost of the medical liability system in the U.S., including payments to victims, amounts to only 8 days of annual spending. Dr. Hoffman attributed the practice of defensive medicine to a cultural fear of uncertainty and anxiety about getting something wrong and being blamed for it, rather than the fear of being sued. Finally, Dr. Rita Redberg, chief editor of the Archives of Internal Medicine and a professor and cardiologist, said the malpractice issue is a "smoke screen".
The Texas medical malpractice law was radically changed in 2003. Due to these changes and the opinions of the Texas Supreme Court, patients harmed by medical negligence now find it difficult to even hire a lawyer, much less obtain fair compensation. Medical costs have not gone down, but dramatically increased. Access to care is not better, it’s worse. The citizens of Texas deserve better.
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