An Overlooked Health Care Cost Cutter: State Medical Liability Reform
side note: This article takes a close look at the inefficiency of healthcare in America, and the system which encourages defensive medicine as a means to lowering medical malpractice insurance at the cost of overall efficiency. I know we often hear that our country has the best healthcare in the world, but we typically rank around the mid-30’s when all is said and done. We need to find solutions that all parties can agree with to help move our great nation forward.
In last month’s Washington Post, the Common Good chairman wrote:
Health-care reform is bogged down because none of the bills before Congress deals with the staggering waste of the current system, estimated to be $700 billion to $1 trillion annually. The waste flows from a culture of health care in which every incentive is to do more — that’s how doctors make money and that’s how they protect themselves from lawsuits.
Yet the congressional leadership has slammed the door on solutions to the one driver of waste that is relatively easy to fix: the erratic, expensive and time-consuming jury-by-jury malpractice system. Pilot projects could test whether this system should be replaced with expert health courts, but leaders who say they want to cut costs will not even consider them.
He is right: Medical malpractice laws in many states, and the defensive medicine practices they encourage, do nothing to improve health care quality and are a driving force behind health care costs. According to the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, “58 percent of tort costs go to pay for administration, claimants’ attorneys’ fees, and defense costs.”
But reform at the federal level is not the answer. Heritage scholars Randolph Pate and Derek Hunter explain:
Not only has this been the position of a handful of conservatives in Congress who have opposed federal tort reforms, but it was also the conclusion of the Reagan Administration. During a similar malpractice crisis in the mid-1980s, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a series of policy recommendations that included state-based tort reforms; however, the report was careful to leave the issue ultimately to the states. While the federal government can play an important leadership role in facilitating and modeling malpractice reforms, it should not dictate solutions.