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    Professional liability reform

     

     

     

    Driving through Tampa, you can’t help being struck by the inordinate number of billboards advertising the services of personal injury attorneys. These ads also festoon newspapers and fill the air waves and television channels. Of course, the millions of dollars generated by media companies come at a high cost to the economy.

    Beyond the actual costs of litigation, and of excess professional liability insurance premiums, defensive medicine adds billions to US healthcare costs. Baicker and associates noted that professional liability premium increases during the height of the last malpractice insurance crisis were associated with a staggering $15 billion increase in Medicare spending.1 Every 10% increase in malpractice payments was associated with a nearly 1% increase in physician-directed healthcare spending.

    While most rational observers accept that defensive medicine contributes to excessive healthcare costs, it has been difficult to establish a precise correlation between tort reform efforts and reductions in such medical practices or their costs. Trial lawyers and their apologists argue that tort reform has no economic impact, but objective analysis suggests otherwise. Detailed economic modeling data presented by Kessler and McClellan indicate that federal caps on non-economic damages and other measures could reduce healthcare costs by nearly 10%.2

    So after two decades of internecine conflict in state legislatures and in Congress between lobbyists and various advocates of trial lawyers and organized medicine over tort reform, where do we stand?

     

    Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM
    Dr. Lockwood, Editor-in-Chief, is Dean of the Morsani College of Medicine and Senior Vice President of USF Health, University of South ...

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