Sadly, healthcare costs in the United States continue to grow at breakneck pace. In fact, according to a report issued by PwC Health Research Institute, total costs for healthcare services are expected to rise 6.5 percent in 2014 alone, which is well above the rate of inflation. And, even though this increase is smaller when compared to past years, it is still significant.
Interestingly, some believe that a substantial portion of these runaway healthcare costs can be blamed on so-called “defensive medicine”, which is the practice of ordering additional tests and/or procedures for the sole purpose of fending off medical malpractice suits. Indeed, it has even been argued that the costs related to defensive medicine merely illustrate the need for extensive tort reform.
However, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that defensive medicine actually accounts for only a small fraction of total healthcare spending – meaning tort reform supporters have grossly overestimated the role that defensive medicine plays in today’s healthcare industry.
Specifically, researchers involved in the study, including Michael B. Rothberg of the Cleveland Clinic, requested physicians from several hospitals to measure the level of defensiveness of the various tests and procedures they ordered. Notably, the researchers discovered that only a mere 2.9 percent of all healthcare costs in these hospitals were completely defensive in nature.
Moreover, the study indicated that doctors themselves may be overestimating the impact of defensive medicine. For instance, while doctors involved in the study stated that many procedures were ordered, at least in part, for defensive purposes, they were also partially ordered on legitimate grounds – meaning these tests would likely have been ordered regardless.
Is tort reform needed?
Since, as this study suggests, tort reform would only target a small portion of healthcare spending, it becomes apparent that reform would do little, if anything, towards reducing healthcare costs.
However, tort reform does have the effect of severely limiting the legal remedies available to medical malpractice victims – essentially robbing these victims of their legal options when they are most in need.
Unfortunately, victims of medical malpractice already face an uphill battle when attempting to hold physicians and other hospital staff accountable for their negligent acts. Consequently, if you or a loved one has been injured due to hospital malpractice, it is important to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. A knowledgeable attorney can assist by reviewing the circumstances of your injury and help explain your rights and options.