Posted by Bill Sandweg on 23 October 2017.
The justifications put forward by the House Republicans to justify their attack on the rights of patients injured by medical malpractice are based, as they must be, on lies and misinformation. How else to get such a blatant attack past the citizens of this country?
Money, of course, drives these attacks. If the amounts patients can recover when they have been the victims of malpractice are limited, this means more money for malpractice insurers, for doctors and for hospitals and less for those pesky patients who have been injured. The prospect of more money for these people and corporations is all the inducement they need to hire lobbyists to promote legislation that favors them. But what to tell the public? Politicians don’t want to tell the voters that they are following the money. Better to tell them that these new laws save them from greedy patients and will lower their health care costs. But what are the facts?
Dr. Tom Price, the disgraced former Secretary of Health and Human Services, was a big proponent of the House malpractice bill when he was serving in the House. His support continued after he became Secretary. He claimed that passing this law would save hundreds of billions of dollars every year. It would do this by stopping the flood of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits that “forced” doctors to practice defensive medicine by ordering tests they would never order if they were not frightened that they might be sued. Setting aside the fact that it is unethical for a doctor to order a test that the patient doesn’t need and to do it for the benefit of the doctor, there is no way defensive medicine amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that there would be a reduction in health care spending, if doctors stopped ordering unnecessary tests. Since doctors get paid for ordering and reviewing these tests, it is a stretch to believe they would give up that income. The savings also are based upon the assumption that malpractice insurers will reduce premiums and that doctors will pass those savings on to their patients. These are two more questionable assumptions. Even with those assumptions, the CBO, in conjunction with a Republican controlled Joint Committee on Taxation, estimate that maybe $3 to $5 billion might be saved each year for the foreseeable future. That is a far cry from hundreds of billions in savings every year.
As far as there being a flood of frivolous malpractice claims, the number of malpractice claims has been declining steadily for the last twenty years. A study by a peer reviewed medical journal of the American Medical Association itself, JAMA Internal Medicine, found that between 1992 and 2014 paid malpractice claims had dropped by over 55%. If there is a malpractice crisis, it is the patients who are suffering as fewer and fewer of them are being compensated for injuries they have suffered as the result of medical malpractice. The decline in the number of paid claims is even more striking when one considers that the population of the United States has increased by 24% during the same time period. More and more patients are making fewer and fewer claims. Some crisis. But inconvenient facts never stopped a politician of either party when there were donations to be had.
Don’t be a sucker. Don’t let them take your rights away. Let them know you are on to them.