In its quest to create healthcare savings, the medical malpractice reform movement advocates setting caps on malpractice lawsuits. But, does this strategy actually work?
It’s conventional wisdom that medical costs are “too high.” Likewise, physicians do worry about getting sued. As a result of these fears, doctors can order tests and other medical services for the sole purpose of protecting themselves from potential legal action. The advocates of reform say that these unnecessary, expensive tests bloat health care budgets and lead to much higher costs.
However, evidence abounds to challenge this narrative.
For instance, a Rand Corporation study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined what happened in three states that enacted tight, tough medical malpractice reform. Contrary to conventional intuition, these states dis not see any substantial savings regarding costs or improvements in ER care. Quite interestingly, the authors suggest that physicians “are less motivated by legal risks than they think they are.”
In South Carolina, Georgia and Texas, doctors can only be sued for malpractice in situations of “gross negligence” – a high bar to meet. Analysts have come up with different interpretations of this study. But it’s not an isolated piece of evidence. A study published just a month earlier in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that so-called defensive medicine costs (i.e. costs stemming from doctors ordering unnecessary tests to deflect possible liability) account for just 2.9 percent of hospital costs.
In other words, if reformers really want to make a dent in healthcare costs, they need to look elsewhere. For instance, they might consider making sure the next round of Dietary Guidelines for Americans (to be published in 2015) come into line with current thinking in nutrition science.
Doing so might help staunch the rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other metabolic diseases that have gotten much worst over the past three decades, since the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans launched in 1980.
For help understanding your rights and options regarding your case, call the Washington D.C. medical malpractice lawyers at Regan, Zambri & Long to set up a free consultation with us.