Friday, October 9, 2009

Tort Reform would save BILLIONS!

Last Monday, President Obama had the Dr's from the American Medical Association to the White House for a photo op and as a show of support for his Health Care plan.


There are several fact to take into account when considering the AMA's endorsement of the Health Care Plan. First, AMA membership only accounts for 15-20% of all the practicing physicians. Second, there is another physicians group, The Coalition to Protect Patients Rights, who were not invited to the White House. In an,Op Ed to the WSJ, Donald J. Palmisano, and two former presidents of the AMA William G. Plested II AND Daniel H. Johnson JR. stated "It's unfortunate only supporters of the president's plans will be there. Mr. Obama has missed an opportunity to learn more about the real issues facing patients and doctors and to formulate a plan that truly puts patients in control with doctors as trusted advisers."

The Op/Ed continued with much of the same valid arguments that have been played all summer. We need keep competition in the system, encourage Health Savings Accounts and the list of others. It was the end of the op/ed that peaked my attentions:

Finally, the nation needs comprehensive medical malpractice reform. It is the surest and quickest way to slow down the rising cost of health care. Statistics from private insurers, as well as a Justice Department report of 2007, indicate that upwards of 80% of malpractice cases are closed without payment—and when there is a trial, the physician-defendant wins 89% of the time. Yet these lawsuits, even when dismissed or closed without payment, cost doctors time and money, and encourage defensive medicine. This adds billions to the cost of medical care. It also increases malpractice insurance premiums, the costs of which get passed on to patients. In too many cases, the malpractice environment forces doctors to leave communities, depriving patients of their trusted medical advisers or specialists whom they might need in an accident or other crisis.

On Friday, the Congressional Budget Office changes it position on the issue stating:

The latest analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that government health care programs could save $41 billion over ten years if nationwide limits on jury awards for pain and suffering and other similar curbs were enacted. Those savings are nearly ten times greater than CBO estimated just last year.

"Recent research has provided additional evidence that lowering the cost of medical malpractice tends to reduce the use of health care services," CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf wrote lawmakers, explaining the agency's shift. Previously, CBO had ruled that any savings would be limited to lower malpractice insurance premiums for doctors, saying there wasn't clear evidence physicians would also change their approach to treatment.

On Friday, Elmendorf essentially acknowledged what doctors have been arguing for years: fear of being sued leads them to practice defensive medicine. Some doctors will order a $1,500 MRI for a patient with back pain instead of a simple, $250 X-ray, just to cover themselves against the unlikely chance they'll be accused later of having missed a cancerous tumor.

My questions is, what WILL it take for congress to have an honest debate about health care?

You can read the entire WSJ Op/Ed HERE.


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