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How Much Do Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Contribute to Health Care Costs?

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A lot of opponents to health care reform like to blame the skyrocketing cost of health care on medical malpractice lawsuits. Their reasoning is that if we just limit medical liability and patient access to legal action after they’ve been harmed by medical negligence, our nation’s health care costs will go way down.

The facts, however, tell a completely different story. A new study published in the journal Health Affairs found that medical liability is responsible for only 2.4 percent of the country’s annual health care spending.

According to the American Association for Justice (AAJ), what this means is that “limiting the rights of injured patients will do practically nothing to lower health care costs.”

The new study…found the annual cost related to medical liability is $55.6 billion. Most of that spending ($45.6 billion) is related to defensive medicine — the tests, drugs and other procedures that doctors prescribe in order to limit the risk of being sued for malpractice. The researchers said their findings indicate malpractice-related costs are neither insignificant nor a cure-all for the nation’s skyrocketing health spending trends. -The Hill

While these numbers may sound high out of context, it’s important to remember that they account for a mere 2.4 percent of the country’s total health care costs—which wouldn’t change significantly even if malpractice lawsuits were completely eliminated from the landscape. And if they were, who knows how many deaths and serious injuries would occur each year as a result of preventable medical errors? Currently, 98,000 people are killed each year in this country from such errors. Any responsible assessment of our health care crisis needs to find real ways to reduce this number.

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  1. james O'Hare RPLU AIC AIS says:
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    The high cost of health care is strictly due to lack of competition, and zero incentive to make it better, or more efficient. Why should they?

    Dump McCarron -Ferguson ,that allows states to protect their borders from out of state HC competition. A license to steal and captive audience. Big Biz wins, citizens lose.

    With prices lowered, efficient and cheap defensive medicine will stimulate the economy and reveal every diagnosis, without it being an expensive diagnosis.( Tongue in cheek)

    Mike – Who is in charge of counting all of those that die due to med mal? How can anyone credibly endeavor to calculate that? Cant people just die w/o someone at fault?
    Regards Jim O’hare RPLU AIC AIS