Medical Malpractice…an important “Cost Control” lever

A common complaint we have voiced is the lack of cost controls in the new health care legislation.  Quite the opposite, there are plenty of new panels, studies, regulations and rules, but virtually no substantive cost controls. 

A simple one, and one the President even mentioned in his most recent State of the Union message is Medical Malpractice…better know simply as “Tort Reform”. 

The plaintiffs bar argues they are the last bastion of protection against those nasty insurance companies and the malfeasance of doctors and hospitals.  They are also quick to point out the miniscule amount tort reform would save.  The facts are however much different.  The facts include something called “preventive medicine”.  Simply stated, a doctor will in fact order more tests, often time’s very expensive tests, to cover themselves against potential malpractice claims.  It is estimated that Malpractice claims, including the cost of preventive medicine, amounts to approximately 2.4% of total health care costs or a whopping $55.0 Billion per year. 

There are several suggested approaches to implementing this important cost containment element.  One is legislation introduced in past years that would limit the per case non-economic loss to $250,000 while allowing full recovery for economic loss.  Further, it required a data base of patients and physicians to check for abuse, and performance standards for medical boards.  Most importantly, it directs the Attorney General to make grants to states and health care entities to carry out mediation programs to resolved health care malpractice allegations without litigation and many more proactive steps. 

So, the stage is set.  We can save $55.0 Billion a year, continue to compensate injured parties fairly, better police the health care profession and raise standards and upset only the plaintiffs bar….and even the President said it was time!