How Eliminating Defensive Medicine Could Save Trillions; Georgia and Florida Lead the Way to Needed Reforms

By Oliver, Wayne W. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

How Eliminating Defensive Medicine Could Save Trillions; Georgia and Florida Lead the Way to Needed Reforms


Oliver, Wayne W., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Wayne W. Oliver, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

As the calendar later this week marks the third anniversary of passage of the most controversial legislation in a generation - the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare - states are beginning to grapple with how to cope with the unbearable costs associated with the new federal health care reform law.

Many states are rebelling against provisions such as state-created marketplaces or exchanges for low-income workers to purchase health insurance or expand the pool of residents who qualify for Medicaid. A few, however, are embracing the true concept of health care reform - finding a path to reduce health care costs for everyone.

Two pioneers leading the charge to slash costs and create a less-contentious environment in the practice of medicine are Georgia and Florida. There, lawmakers are considering legislation that would eliminate one of the biggest drivers of health care costs: the practice of defensive medicine.

They would do it by completely repealing their state's medical tort system so that no doctor, hospital or medical provider would ever be sued again.

Defensive medicine occurs every day in physicians' offices and hospitals throughout the country. It happens when doctors order more tests, procedures or medications than are clinically appropriate to avoid a lawsuit. We all pay for that with higher insurance premiums and larger out-of-pocket expenses.

Gallup surveyed doctors in 2010 just as President Obama was pushing his health care law. The poll found that 1 in 4 health care dollars spent in our country can be attributed to the routine practice of defensive medicine. That translates to an estimated $480 billion annually.

The Georgia and Florida proposals would eliminate defensive medicine and create billions in health care and taxpayer savings. In exchange, the plan would replace the medical tort system with a no-fault, administrative model similar to a workers' compensation system.

This would revolutionize the medical-malpractice system so that no physician would feel compelled to practice defensive medicine. Moreover, all injured patients would be compensated for their loss - something unheard of today because very few claims ever make it through the legal system.

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