Small savings add up and shouldn't be discounted, but if a doctor mistakenly amputates your wrong leg that's life changing. How do you put a price tag on something so horrific? And don't believe the hype about frivolous lawsuits. Health Beat reports the following facts from a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“The great majority of patients who sustain a medical injury as a result of negligence do not sue.” Indeed, the New York Times reports, although “recent studies have found that one of every 100 hospital patients suffers negligent treatment, and that as many as 98,000 die each year as a result . . . only a small fraction of injured patients — perhaps 2 percent—press legal claims.And it appears that doctors are paying high malpractice insurance rates in part because of a few bad apples:
“Just 1.1 percent of all doctors accounted for 30 percent of all malpractice payments made between 1990 and 2002, while only 5.2 percent of doctors were responsible for 55 percent of all payouts.” A very small group of doctors are losing or settling malpractice lawsuits, but they are losing big.According to the Washington Independent, tort reform is unlikely to cut health care costs since studies show malpractice awards are not the big driver of skyrocketing costs, and Bloomberg reported that malpractice lawsuits are a red herring.
“Eighty percent of claims involved injuries that caused significant or major disability (39 percent and 15 percent, respectively) or death (26 percent).”
...annual jury awards and legal settlements involving doctors amounts to “a drop in the bucket” in a country that spends $2.3 trillion annually on health care, said Amitabh Chandra, a Harvard University economist. Chandra estimated the cost at $12 per person in the U.S.Besides, as Barbara O'Brien of Mahablog blog points out, most tort laws are state laws, and tort reform is primarily a state-level issue; a great many of the "tort reforms" conservatives insist are necessary to bring down health care costs already have been enacted in most states, and in many states, malpractice suits have been significantly reduced; and the fact is, in recent years malpractice claims have dropped significantly, but health care costs continue to rise.
So why all the talk about tort reform? I suspect O'Brien hit on the real reason:
In the 1980s Karl Rove identified tort reform as a strategic wedge issue for Republicans, for two reasons. First, trial lawyers tend to be Democratic voters, and demonizing trial lawyers could help smear the Dems by association. Second, the industries pushing tort reform had a whole lot of money to give to campaigns.Just once I wish Republicans would do what's best for people, not themselves or special interests. Tort reform may need to be tweaked at some point in the future, but our immediate need is to get people high-quality, affordable care while reforming the insurance industry. Enough with the misleading talk; it's time to take action.