Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm a doctor. So sue me. No, really

The doctors' lobby says capping malpractice suits will make healthcare cheaper.
I'm an M.D. and I don't believe it
By Rahul K. Parikh, M.D.
Oct. 27, 2009

...Defensive medicine is just one of the supposed systemic ills...Proponents of reform say that defensive medicine, frivolous lawsuits and high premiums are behind the surge in healthcare shift the blame for America's healthcare crisis away from private insurers and onto a supposed scourge of ambulance chasers...

The only problem is that it's not true...Defensive medicine adds very little to healthcare's price tag, and rising malpractice premiums have had very little impact on access to care.

...First, based on the current rhetoric, it's easy to assume we have an epidemic of malpractice suits in America. We don't.... according to the Congressional Budget Office, nationally, between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, the frequency of malpractice suits per capita remained stable at about 15 claims per 100 physicians per year. Another report, from the National Center for State Courts, actually shows that the number of cases between 1996 and 2006 dropped 8 percent...

Next is the question of frivolous lawsuits. Tort reformers push the notion that junk lawsuits dominate the legal system...

But the private studies cited often involve small numbers of claims, or focus on a single hospital, insurer, specialty or type of injury, or were commissioned by interested parties, aka the malpractice insurers themselves...In 2006, researchers from Harvard published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine... What they found kills the notion of frivolous lawsuits. It suggests that most people who sue are suing for good reason.

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