The Healthcare Bills continue to lurch and stumble through The Senate and House like a stroll through the countyside by Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. The bills are incoherent and, indeed, monstrous. There was a great article about a key forgotten element, malpractice reform, written by a distinguished academic physician, in the Weekly Standard, October 27th issue. Here is an excerpt and I’m providing a link to the full article, THE MALPRACTICE PROBLEM:
There is much that can be done to make our health care system more efficient. Tort reform is a great place to start, says Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, the associate dean of clinical education at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
In Texas, there’s a law capping payments for pain and suffering to $250,000, which provides some benefit. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, malpractice suits have been dramatically reduced:
–––The year before the caps on pain and suffering payments took effect, there were over 1,100 medical liability suits filed in Dallas, but only 142 cases were filed in 2004.
___Also, there was a surge of physicians coming into Texas to set up practice as malpractice premiums fell by about 50 percent.
___Texas is a state with low health care spending; according to the National Center for Policy Analysis, but is fifth highest in Medicare spending per capita and 43rd in per capita spending for the state’s entire population.
Whether the malpractice caps in Texas account in any way for these data is uncertain, the pattern is encouraging, says Goldfarb.
The problem for physicians is not only about the money expended in malpractice insurance premiums or about excess payouts to plaintiffs. It is also about the time and effort that defending against lawsuits requires. It is also about the potential for a trial and the stress associated with the experience. Avoiding these legal troubles is as much an influence on doctors as the desire to avoid a potential increase in insurance premiums following a malpractice suit, says Goldfarb.
Source: Stanley Goldfarb, Associate Dean of Clinical Education at the University of Pennsylvania. ” The Malpractice Problem,” Weekly Standard, October 27, 2009.