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Medical Malpractice Costs Are Not to Blame for Skyrocketing Health Care Costs

September 15, 2010

Medical Malpractice is sometimes cited as one of the major reasons for sky rocketing healthcare costs, but a recent study shows that the malpractice expenses are just a fraction of the total healthcare costs even when factoring in defensive medicine: tests, procedures, etc. Most defensive medicine expenses are ordered by doctors so they can protect themselves from getting sued.

An analysis by the journal Health Affairs has found that $55.6 billion, 2.4 percent of all annual health spending, is spent on medical malpractice, reports Modern Healthcare. ""The estimate includes defensive-medicine activities, such as ordering tests or treatments ...which alone costs an estimated $45.6 billion per year, the study found. ... To get more concrete answers, the study's researchers analyzed different areas of the medical liability system such as payments made to malpractice plaintiffs, defensive medicine and administrative costs, and the costs of lost clinician work time.""

The study says that tort reform, such as placing a cap on noneconomic damages, could reduce some costs but are likely to have ""little effect on overall healthcare spending ... reform proposals such as moving away from fee-for-service reimbursement could have a greater impact"" (Lubell, 9/7).

The Hill: ""'Physician and insurer groups like to collapse all conversations about cost growth in health care to malpractice reform, while their opponents trivialize the role of defensive medicine,' Amitabh Chandra, a co-author of the study and professor of public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said in a statement. 'Our study demonstrates that both these simplifications are wrong --- the amount of defensive medicine is not trivial, but it's unlikely to be a source of significant savings'" (Lillis, 9/7).

Source: Kaiser Health News