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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jarey on Healthcare Reforms and Ambulence Chasers

Jarey points out that part of the problem with the proposed Healthcare Reforms is the industry of litigation that has developed around around medical care in the US.

Most Americans believe that the US has one of the best health care systems in the world. They want to improve the current system without reducing the quality of care for all Americans. And they know that enacting tort reform is a first step. Research has shown that tort lawsuits (A tort is a legal wrong; negligence, intentional interference and other wrongful acts) cost the doctors and the insurance industry over $65 Billion each year. (Jay Leno said that when the word 'tort' is mentioned, most people think you're talking about a French pastry! Wink )

This does not take into account the extra proceedures doctors order just to cover their legal backsides each year, which also run into the billions of dollars. In addition, doctors are abandoning certain specialties (i.e. OB/GYN) due to the high cost of insurance to protect them from lawsuits. In Texas, prior to Gov. Bush's tort reform laws, physicians in the OB/Gyn field left the field altogether. One OB/GYN physician said she was paying over $250,000 per year in premiums. After the tort reform was passed in Texas, many went back to the profession. A recent poll showed that 40-50% of physicians say they would consider leaving their practices if ObamaCare is enacted.

Arrow Tort lawyers, often called 'ambulance chasers', receive from 30 to 40% of the settlements in cases of medical 'malpractice' suits. Doctors and insurance companies pay billions of dollars annually to defend themselves against malpractice suits. The current system rightly allows patients to sue for money lost or additional costs incurred because of malpractice. But it is the unlimited damages for “pain and suffering” that allow trial lawyers to abuse the system. According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, 40 percent of medical malpractice suits filed in the U.S. are “without merit.”

Despite the frivolous nature of many of these suits, juries often award hundreds of millions of dollars to plaintiffs — and their trial lawyers. There is no way to predict these costs, so every doctor must purchase malpractice insurance at great expense to protect against frivolous lawsuits. A Department of Health and Human Services study found that unlimited excessive damages add $70 Billion to $126 Billion annually to health care costs.

Doctors are so concerned about frivolous lawsuits that they order unnecessary — and expensive — tests and procedures that are of no benefit to the patient. The costs of litigation and defensive medicine are then passed off to the patient in the price of health care.


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