There hasn’t been much discussion about serious tort reform in the current healthcare reform debate. That’s probably because most policy experts don’t believe it will make a significant dent in healthcare costs. I happen to believe that tort reform would be a huge boon for healthcare (just ask Ob/Gyns in Texas) and save a lot in defensive medicine practices and unnecessary testing, but even if I’m wrong and it wouldn’t result in cost-savings, there’s another issue at play: access to primary care physicians.
We all agree that we’re in the midst of a major shortage in primary care physicians. Many different solutions have been proposed – everything from “let the nurses do it” to forgiving medical school loans to physicians who choose primary care as a career. However, solving the PCP shortage isn’t just about recruitment, it’s about retention. And with up to a half of PCPs saying that practice conditions are so unbearable they’re planning to quit in the next 2 years – Houston, we have a problem. Read more »
A thoughtful and (dare I say it) balanced look at medical malpractice in today’s NYT:
Malpractice System Breeds More Waste in Medicine – NYTimes.com
The debate over medical malpractice can often seem theological. On one side are those conservatives and doctors who have no doubt that frivolous lawsuits and Democratic politicians beholden to trial lawyers are the reasons American health care is so expensive. On the other side are those liberals who see malpractice reform as another Republican conspiracy to shift attention from the real problem. [...]
The direct costs of malpractice lawsuits — jury awards, settlements and the like — are such a minuscule part of health spending that they barely merit discussion, economists say. But that doesn’t mean the malpractice system is working.
The fear of lawsuits among doctors does seem to lead to a noticeable amount of wasteful treatment. Amitabh Chandra — a Harvard economist whose research is cited by both the American Medical Association and the trial lawyers’ association — says $60 billion a year, or about 3 percent of overall medical spending, is a reasonable upper-end estimate. If a new policy could eliminate close to that much waste without causing other problems, it would be a no-brainer.
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*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*