“…I don’t believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I’ve talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I’m proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these ideas. I think it’s a good idea, and I’m directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.” President Obama to Joint Session of Congress on September 9, 2009:
While tort reform may not be a silver bullet, it will save a significant amount of money
The accounting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers says about 10% of the cost of medical service is attributable to medical malpractice lawsuits. Roughly 2% is caused by direct costs of the lawsuits; an additional 5% to 9% is due to expenses run up by defensive medicine.
Ten Percent! The Obamacare bills spend over a trillion dollars and they don’t save ten percent on medical service.
Its not just the insurance costs, but these lawsuits cause doctors to run additional and possibly unessential procedures:
Old Democratic presidential aspirant John Edwards won $175 million in judgments over a 12-year period suing doctors, hospitals and insurance companies, everyone but the candy stripers, over infant cerebral palsy cases allegedly caused by mishandled deliveries.
As the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists noted in a study in 2003, cerebral palsy could not be blamed in the “vast majority” of cases on delivery trouble. Edwards enriched himself by using bad science to bankrupt innocent physicians.
The New York Times has reported that as a result of such lawsuits, “doctors have responded by changing the way they deliver babies, often seeing a relatively minor anomaly on a fetal heart monitor as justification for an immediate cesarean.”(source)
So what has happened to the Presidents promise to direct “my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today?”
The ranking member of the House Oversight Comittee Congressman Issa fired a shot across the bow of the White House yesterday;
“The first question I have for President Obama is if he still stands by his call for tort reform or was he just lying to Congress when he directed Sec. Sebelius to pursue an initiative addressing the costs of defensive medicine. When HHS is telling me that malpractice reform is not a “priority of this Administration,” I have to question the sincerity of the President’s commitment to working with Congressional Republicans on a bipartisan basis. A clarification from the Administration would tell us if he is sincere in his effort for bipartisan discussions or if this is just another exercise in futility aimed to make the American people think the White House is serious about bipartisanship.”
Is he implying that Barack Obama would say one thing in public, and do a different thing in private? He wouldn’t do that, would he?
Last week the House Oversight Committee released a report examining the failure to address the costs of defensive medicine in health care legislation and highlights how defensive medicine contributes to the “high cost of health care” and drives up insurance premiums (full report below). The report concludes that the government could save approximately $250 Billion Dollars/year if tort reform was enacted. And thats just government savings, it doesn’t count the cost savings racked up by the general public.
The report shows the impact lawsuits are having on doctors, particularly OBGYNs (thanks to Mr Edwards) and also how capping rewards have reduced medical costs in California, Texas and Georgia.
“It is estimated that these additional liability-based medical care costs adds at least 3.4 million Americans to the rolls of the uninsured,” the report says. Additionally the states with the higest malpractice awards, also have the higher Medicare spending.
It seems as if tort reform would contribute to many of the health goals the President is looking for including saving medical costs and adding people to the health rolls. I wonder what would make the President break his promise?
Well, I guess it will just have to remain a mystery. Read the full congressional report on Tort reform below.