Posted by Bill Sandweg on 02 February 2017.
Republicans now control both houses of Congress and the White House. They have announced that one of their big goals is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and its replacement with something better. A description of exactly what that something better will look like has been notably absent from the rhetoric. However, some Republicans have suggested that Tom Price, the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, has been working on plans for replacement for years from his seat in the House of Representatives.
Mr. Price, a representative from Georgia, is also an orthopedic surgeon who has been quite vigorous in his efforts to pass legislation to benefit his colleagues in the medical profession. When medical studies showed that frequent mammograms and prostate cancer screenings were not medically justified and led to excess costs and unnecessary treatments, he tried to get the federal government to stop its efforts to incorporate the findings into its health policies. He wanted doctors to be able to continue to perform these unnecessary tests and be paid for them.
One part of Mr. Price’s reforms to improve medical care and reduce its costs is to limit medical malpractice cases. Here is what Mr. Price has to say on the subject, ” To address rising healthcare costs, we can save hundreds of billions of dollars each year by enacting meaningful lawsuit abuse reform and ending the practice of defensive medicine.” “Lawsuit abuse” is what Republicans call it when someone who has been injured by a medical mistake has the temerity to sue the doctor who injured him. The idea that hundreds of billions of dollars will magically appear if we get rid of medical malpractice cases is just that: magical thinking. You will note that Mr. Price never mentions stopping medical mistakes or how to make it up to a patient who has been terribly injured by medical malpractice. All you are supposed to think about is the hundreds of billions of dollars that will be magically saved.
We have blogged often about the myth that medical malpractice cases are a burden on the system and the myth that doctors engage in the unethical practice of “defensive medicine” because they are afraid of being sued. See posts here, here and here. Plain and simple, the effort to stop “frivolous,” “abusive” medical malpractice lawsuits is nothing more than another money grab by doctors coupled with a desire not to have to answer for their mistakes. Don’t let them get away with it.