Straight talk about medical malpractice reform

I smiled when I read that some physicians were taking the case for medical malpractice reform to the congressional super committee that is charged with cutting the federal deficit. It’s emblematic of what cynics might expect of the committee –that at best it will be able to agree on exciting sounding ideas that turn out to yield little to no savings. Medical malpractice policy is a serious issue that deserves to be debated, but it’s not a major driver of health care costs.

I was happy to find a recent blog post by physician/lawyer William Sage, who share some points on medical malpractice that I agree with wholeheardetly:

  • Malpractice liability is a marginal pressure on the health care system, not a major one in an industry that represents > 1/7 of the economy
  • Most malpractice reform rationales are politically motivated as an examination of its decades long history reveals
  • The chest-thumping about attracting physicians by reducing malpractice litigation is overblown. The affect is real but not large
  • Less of a bad malpractice system is not the same thing as a good malpractice system, and the typical focus on crude measures that cap damages for pain and suffering and/or limit lawyers’ contingency payments are not terribly inspiring
  • If physicians really want tort reform, they should offer the health care system something meaningful in return such as improving access and reducing medical error



October 6, 2011

2 thoughts on “Straight talk about medical malpractice reform”

  1. I think that malpractice reform is necessary but that there are bigger fish to fry at the moment. Your article was interesting in pointing out the relative insignificance of that malpractice liability has on the health care system.

  2. The effect of med mal is not only economic. Just as injured parties suffer non-economic effects, so too do physicians and their families. Moreover, do you really want a doctor who’s constantly weighing the CYA effects of diagnoses and treatments? Risk averse to the physician is not risk averse to the patient. Doctors and patients need to partner in healthcare. Med mal concerns often put a strain on that relationship.

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