Tort Reform and Health Care

I want to satisfy my legal friends and say that tort reform should be called negligence reform, negligence is the tort that is used to sue medical professionals.

Tort reform’s ability to reduce health care costs depends on the number of services that are given to patients solely to protect against litigation. In other words, as long as a lab test, screening, or treatment can possibly be medically necessary it would be offered regardless of the patient’s ability to sue. That’s especially true because our health care system pays hospitals and doctors by the service offered.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that strictly defensive medicine, services offered only to protect against litigation, accounts for 2.9 percent of total health care costs.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at the aftermath of law changes that made it almost impossible for people in Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina to sue emergency physicians. The study compared the cost of emergency care in those states with the cost of emergency care in three neighboring states. Despite the legal protections afforded emergency physicians, the cost of emergency care in Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina was basically no different in those states.

Since medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in America, we have to ask what would happen to those numbers if the medical community was given almost total immunity from lawsuits?


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