The True Secret to Reducing Health Care Costs
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Physicians have been complaining for years that one way to reduce the cost of providing medicine in America is to reform the malpractice laws. They may have an ally in the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) - even if the doctors do not have an ally in the Obama administration.
CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf, during a speech given November 13 at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, outlined ways to reduce spending for healthcare. One of the ideas was that of reforming tort laws and placing liability limits on pain and suffering awards so that malpractice insurance would not be an onerous expense.
This is not the first time CBO has said this. It made the same claim in 2009. Some legislators wanted to include tort reform as a major component of the Affordable Care Act. But this provision was never included.
Still, trial lawyers are a major financial donor to Democrats. They wield a great deal of influence within the party. They have perceived tort reform as endangering their profession. Some suspect this was the reason why.
Tort lawyers have vigorously defended medical malpractice suits. They claim that any attempt to limit damages or reform the system is an injustice. They say reforming the system will not permit people injured by poor medical practices to be properly compensated.
The American Association for Justice (AAJ), the professional association of the trial lawyers of America, the attorneys who represent the plaintiffs in malpractice suits, have always been opposed to capping awards for pain suffering is an injustice.
"Preventable medical errors kill and seriously injure hundreds of thousands of Americans every year," the organization's Website says. "Any discussion of medical negligence that does not involve preventable medical errors ignores this fundamental problem. And while some would prefer to focus on doctors' insurance premiums, health care costs, or alternative compensation systems anything other than the negligence itself reducing medical errors is the best way to address all the related problems. Preventing medical errors will lower health care costs, reduce doctors' insurance premiums, and protect the health and well-being of patients."
The AAJ claims that malpractice costs are only a fraction of healthcare costs. Reducing payments would cause more damage than it would help the practice of medicine in the United States - in their opinion.
But a 2011 article by the Center for Economic Freedom of the Texas Public Policy Foundation claims malpractice reform saved the practice of medicine in Texas. Policy analyst Ryan Brannan showed that doctors had been leaving Texas in droves prior to 2003 because of malpractice lawsuits.
After Texas passed tort reform doctors returned. Using data from the Texas Medical Association Brannan said that the malpractice reform was a "very important" or a "moderately important" factor in their coming to Texas to practice medicine.