In the debate over tort reform, “five myths of medical malpractice” with “wide currency in medical circles” are frequently repeated in op-ed essays, blog postings and public statements by physicians, including those designated as spokespersons for organized medicine, according to a report in Chest Journal, published by the American College of Chest Physicians. Read more from Modern Physician here.
Towers Watson has released its annual review of tort costs in the U.S., including yearly medical malpractice tort costs since 1975. The report estimated medical malpractice tort costs were $29.8 billion in 2010, the result of an average 9.7% increase annually since 1975. This compares to a 7.5% increase for all other tort cases during the same period. However, medical malpractice tort expenses have held fairly steady since 2006, declining slightly by 0.1% over the last five years.
But even when a case is dismissed, the road is typically long for both doctors and the patients suing, researchers said. Medical malpractice claims have become a hot-button issue in the U.S., coming up repeatedly in debates about healthcare reform.
Some specialists must pay a couple hundred thousand dollars a year in premiums for insurance against malpractice claims—though rates vary by state. But not much has been known about how long malpractice claims take to resolve, or what proportion of them actually end in a payment to patients.
The House Judiciary Committee on April 25 voted 16-14 to approve and send to the House Budget Committee the HEALTH Act (H.R. 5), medical liability reform legislation supported by the American Hospital Association. Savings from the bill, which passed the House earlier this year as part of a package that would also repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, would be used to meet the reconciliation instructions set forth in the House-passed budget resolution.
A survey of emergency physicians by the American College of Emergency Physicians finds the practice of defensive medicine widespread. More than half say fear of litigation drives many of the tests they order.
Enacting the medical liability reforms included in the HEALTH Act (H.R. 5) would reduce deficits by almost $14 billion through 2016 and $57 billion through 2021, according to new estimates by the Congressional Budget Office. In addition, CBO estimates the American Hospital Association-supported legislation would reduce discretionary spending for the Federal Employees Health Benefits program and departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs by about $2 billion through 2021.
H.R. 5 would establish a three-year statute of limitations for most medical liability claims; cap non-economic and punitive damages; limit defendants’ liability to their share of responsibility for the injury; limit lawyer contingency fees; establish a safe harbor from punitive damages for products that meet applicable Food and Drug Administration safety requirements; and permit evidence of income from sources such as life insurance payouts and health insurance at trial. The estimate was requested by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which approved the bill on May 11.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee on May 11 voted 30-20 to approve the HEALTH Act (H.R. 5), medical liability reform legislation supported by the American Hospital Association. Introduced by Reps. Phil Gingrey, M.D. (R-GA), Lamar Smith (R-TX) and David Scott (D-GA), the legislation is based on California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, which among other provisions caps non-economic damages at $250,000.
The bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in February, and is expected to go to the House floor in early June. In recent years, a similar measure has repeatedly passed in the House but failed in the Senate.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama said he is willing to consider liability reform as a way to reduce health care costs.
The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on April 6 held a hearing on the cost of the medical liability system and the impact of reform proposals, including legislation (H.R. 5) approved by the House Judiciary Committee in February that would cap non-economic damages at $250,000. In a statement for the record, the American Hospital Association said, "An estimated $50 to $100 billion is spent annually on defensive medicine - services not provided for the primary purpose of benefiting the patient, but rather to mitigate the risk of liability. To help make health care more affordable and efficient, the current medical liability system must be reformed."