Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Tom Price claim there is a medical malpractice crisis in American health care and vow to make tort reform part of their replacement for the Affordable Care Act. They say that medical malpractice claims are driving hospitals’ insurance rates up and forcing doctors out of business. Experts and research analysts in the field however, disagree with this claim.
The rate of medical malpractice claims have actually dropped by half since 2003, the year of the last insurance crisis. Hospitals are actually paying less for their doctors’ medical malpractice insurance than they did in 2001, and that number is not adjusted for inflation.
Michael Matray, an editor for the publication Medical Liability Monitor, told Kaiser Health News, “It’s a wonderful time for doctors looking for coverage and it’s never been better for insurers.”
Yet another expert weighed in on the supposed medical malpractice insurance crisis. Nicholas Pace, who works at the nonprofit policy organization Rand Corp., researches the civil justice system. He says that “It’s a time of relative calm, and this hasn’t been a front-burner issue or crisis. But now Republicans see an opportunity to make changes they have wanted for a long time as they replace Obamacare.”
Representative Price and Speaker Paul Ryan want to create damage caps on noneconomic awards, using California’s $250,000 damage cap as an example of the kind of legislation they hope to nationalize. They also want to increase the burden of proof on the medical malpractice victim, making it more difficult to win cases against doctors.
Critics of the proposed reform say that the politicians are ignoring the real issue, which is how to make hospitals safer for patients. According to a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine, medical errors may account for 250,000 deaths in the United States annually, making it the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer.
Stanford University law professor Michelle Mellow told reporters that the reforms “really represent the agenda of medical professionals, which is all about limiting liability.” She went on to advise, “To take any malpractice reform seriously, it has to offer something to improve the situation of patients and lead to safer outcomes.”
Instead of focusing on increased patient care, in a press conference in June, Representative Price told reporters, “We waste hundreds of billions of dollars due to lawsuit abuse in this country and the practice of defensive medicine.” Defensive medicine is the practice of ordering or performing unnecessary tests and/or procedures to avoid litigation.
In actually, studies suggest that only 3% of the nation’s average annual $3.2 trillion spending on health care goes to litigation and defensive medicine, a total of about $100 billion.
If you or someone you love has experienced the devastating effects of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian today at (800) 529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.