When our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys defend the civil justice system, we are often asked to comment on the claims that Chicago medical malpractice lawsuits-and similar suits across the country-inflate the cost of health care. Of course, in reality, there absolutely no reason to believe that the use of the legal system by injury victims has significant long-term health care cost effects. In fact, there is concrete evidence created groups on all sides of the political spectrum which find that the claims about vast cost savings from enacting medical malpractice reforms are nothing more than hyperbole.
A New York Times editorial this week made that same point. It was explained how total U.S. healthcare costs are around $2.6 trillion each year. To have any real effect on limiting the yearly costs, large figures must be involved in any budget reduction plans. Many are prone to point out that changes that would save $26 billion would represent only a one percent reduction in costs. Therefore, when discussing ways to save healthcare costs, anything that saves less than $26 billion is simply not even worse considering. We have bigger budget problems and big solutions need to be discussed.
Yet, when asked how to cut costs, the answer that the vast majority of so-called “conservatives” point to is the need for medical malpractice reform to eliminate the distorting effect of frivolous lawsuits. Of course, putting aside the debate about the accuracy of the claims made about these issues, as the editorial points out “malpractice reform and cutting back on drug and insurance company profits would be insufficient and a distraction from the real efforts necessary to control costs.” In other words, even if all of the tort reformers arguments were true-an unlikely fact-their proposed measures would still do virtually nothing to address the real problems we face.
The most generous estimates-which most medical malpractice law practitioners would contest-suggests that even if the most severe damage caps are instituted, the savings would be less than half of one percent of spending. In other words, it is not a catch all. Besides that, as the editorial explains, there is very limited data on the effect of caps. The data that does exist continues to show that the benefits claimed by proponents do not exist. In addition, the study referred to, published in Health Affairs in 2004, found that there was a very real chance of decreased quality of care as a result of the caps.
The fact remains that virtually all of the arguments made by tort reform proponents are either ill-informed statements without backing or intentionally misleading claims. Insurance companies and influential medical lobbying groups have much to gain in their individualized interests by pushing these measures. But tort reformer efforts have no place on the national stage and certainly cannot deliver the cures that proponents claim. It is sad that taking points in these debates continue to affect the national discourse, distracting policymakers from the real discussions about ways to allocate resources and save costs.
In Other News: This blog and our companion blog–Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog–were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.
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