Trial Lawyers Thwart Meaningful Healthcare Reform

Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, August 6th, 2009, 3:22 PM PERMALINK

There is consensus among Americans that something must be done to address healthcare costs, currently consuming 16 percent of GDP. The Obama administration has wedded itself to healthcare and is searching for reform. Unfortunately, Democratic plans are incredibly expensive and do not lower costs, just minor details. With a price tag around $1 trillion over 10 years, it is hard to see how spending extravagant amounts of taxpayer money saves Americans money. And Democrats wonder why a plurality of Americans oppose Obama’s healthcare plan.

Regrettably, for Americans who see their medical expenses rising, Democrats have taken one obvious cost-cutting measure off the table: medical tort reform. The current malpractice system is one that is terribly inefficient and expensive. There is no limit to how much money patients can sue for and no standard system for dealing with these claims.
Doctors combat impending lawsuits in two ways, both of which unnecessarily inflate the cost of healthcare. Most doctors purchase malpractice or asset protection insurance as safeguards against lawsuits. These insurance plans are expensive and raise overhead costs for hospitals. Secondly, doctors are forced to practice defensive medicine. Defensive medicine takes place when doctors order needless tests or procedures to protect themselves against future lawsuits. A 2008 survey found that 83% of Massachusetts doctors practice defensive medicine and that 25% of all imaging tests were ordered for defensive purposes.
Medical tort reform drives down insurance premiums by reducing the amount of tests insurance companies cover each year. This would reduce healthcare costs by as much as $200 billion a year. So why are no Democrats talking about eliminating defensive medicine as an easy way to save billions of taxpayer dollars? Trial lawyers, the only opponents to medical tort reform, happen to be in bed with Democrats, consistently raising millions for the Democratic Party. Democrats have sold out the American public for trial lawyers’ “donations.”
While Congress recesses, Democrats will try and cook the books on healthcare, looking to make their plans appear deficit neutral. An honest discussion about healthcare reform is not possible until special interests- trial lawyers- are expelled from the conversation. Until then, the status quo and handouts that burden our healthcare system will continue.