Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tort Reform And Health Care

Daphne Eviatar at the Washington Independent writes about tort reform in the health care debate:
"'It’s really just a distraction,' said Tom Baker, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and author of 'The Medical Malpractice Myth.' 'If you were to eliminate medical malpractice liability, even forgetting the negative consequences that would have for safety, accountability, and responsiveness, maybe we’d be talking about 1.5 percent of health care costs. So we’re not talking about real money. It’s small relative to the out-of-control cost of health care.'

Insurance costs about $50-$60 billion a year, Baker estimates. As for what’s often called 'defensive medicine,' 'there’s really no good study that’s been able to put a number on that,' said Baker.

Krauthammer cited a study by the Massachusetts Medical Society that found that five out of six doctors said they ordered additional tests, procedures and referrals to protect themselves from lawsuits. He also relies on a much-criticized study from the libertarian Pacific Research Institute on the civil justice system to conclude that 'defensive medicine' wastes more than $200 billion a year."

Baker is skeptical, and makes the point that “defensive medicine” is not the same thing as wasteful medicine. “Like defensive driving, some defensive medicine is good,” he said. “To change behavior. When you drill down those studies, you see that what it means is, doctors are more careful with patient records. They spend more time with the patient. They’re more careful to say hello and goodbye to the patient. That’s good.

Other health economists agree that 'defensive medicine' is not the main driver of costs, and malpractice liability reform is not a panacea."
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