$45 billion is nothing to scoff at; by any estimate that’s a lot of money. It’s also about what gets spent every year on defensive medicine at hospitals across the country. For anyone familiar with the medical malpractice debate and the issue of tort reform, this number may sound familiar.
Proponents of malpractice caps often point out the fact that billions of dollars are spent every year to avoid medical malpractice lawsuits. While this statement is very true, it’s also a bit misleading.
By pulling the magnifying glass out of the picture, you see that malpractice costs are about $55.6 billion a year – compared to a national healthcare bill of more than $2 trillion. When looked at as a part of the whole, medical malpractice accounts for less than three percent of America’s yearly healthcare spend.
This month’s issue of Health Affairs is all about taking a step back and looking at the broader picture.
In one of the studies published in September’s issue, a study from the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy found that the effect of national tort reform would have such a small impact on the cost of medical malpractice that it barely registers. J. William Thomas, PhD helmed the study, which found that tort reform measures would lower the United States’ healthcare bill by about 0.12 to 0.134 percent.
He was careful to issue the caveat that even 0.12 percent of two trillion dollars is a significant amount of money. However, the fact that it is such a small part of the whole does make one question whether tort reform is the issue it’s being made out to be.
In that light, limiting patients or families from receiving compensation for injuries or the death of a loved one seems harsh. Surely there are larger percentages to go after.