A Remedy for Medical Liability Reform; A Common-Sense Solution to Escalating Health Care Costs
Byline: Dr. Tod Rubin, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The suggestion by President Obama to provide a paltry $50 million to institute a medical liability pilot program is just another example of how insincere, deceptive and ignorant he remains on the substantive issues affecting our health care system. To infer that giving each state $1 million to study the medical malpractice liability issues it faces is laughable. I would propose he look no further than Mississippi, Texas and California as models of reasonable tort reform that protects the rights of patients while being fair to trial attorneys and physicians.
What is indisputable is that there continue to be more lawsuits and larger settlements, especially damaging in a down economy. The current medical-legal climate has left physicians with little confidence that they won't be sued for the omission of tests or for treatments that they failed to perform. The result is an expansion in the practice of defensive medicine. Defensive medicine is defined as "the ordering of diagnostic or therapeutic measures primarily not to ensure the health of the patient, but as a safeguard against possible malpractice liability. This may include tests, prescriptions, hospitalizations and referrals to specialists that may not be medically necessary, but viewed as providing protection from a potential lawsuit.
Why do doctors find this necessary? Unlike other workers and professionals, physicians are not legally protected through their business, employer or insurance. Malpractice insurance covers their liability up to a fixed amount, occasionally, well below what a jury may award. Their reputations, careers and personal assets are at risk because they are individually liable for their medical decisions. As physicians work in an environment that promotes risk aversion, it is inevitable that costs increase, while quality and access to care decline.
These measures of protection by physicians certainly add significant expense to our health care system. The cost of defensive medicine and malpractice premiums to all health care providers and facilities is estimated to be $200 billion to $400 billion per year. …