Over the past few weeks we have pointed out how the cost of childbirth in the United States is far higher than anywhere else in the world. Not only that, but the costs within the US have been rising dramatically and steadily.
What is causing the rise? It would take several doctoral theses to make a full argument about medical costs, as they remain an incredibly complex issue. So many factors play a role and there is so little transparency that even those incredibly familiar with how it all works have varying ideas about how to reign in the problem.
Even though there is disagreement about what we can do to lower costs, we know much more about things that will not affect the costs.
No Correlation Between Lawsuits & Costs
For example, after years of testing and study, it is clear that arbitrary laws to take away legal rights from medical malpractice victims does not affect medical costs. A new report from Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division lays out the point clearly.
Many elected officials, candidates, insurance company officials, and representative of large healthcare groups continue to claim that we can lower medical costs for everyone by ensuring the small group of patients who are seriously hurt by medical errors do not have the same legal rights as everyone else. The cost of paying out claims and the “defensive medicine” that is done in fear of lawsuits supposedly causes all care to rise in cost.
While the simplicity of the argument is easily believed by many who first hear it, anyone who does a bit of research to test the claim quickly discovers is falsity. It is worth looking at the entire Public Citizen piece to get an idea of the scope of the evidence against this proposition. But the bottom line is that while medical malpractice lawsuits and awards have decreased sharply in the past five to ten years, the cost of medical care has skyrocketed upward without abate. There is simply no correlation between the two.
A few of the more specific findings include:
* Last year, 2012, information from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) showed the lowest total malpractice payouts on record.
* At the same time as malpractice payouts decreased by 28.8%, the total health care bill for all Americans rose by 58.3%
* The rate of medical errors has not changed during this time. In other words, the decrease in medical payouts is not because of better care. Instead, it is simply caused by restrictive state laws that deny full compensation for those hurt by negligence.
Unfortunately, birth injury lawsuits are usually target number one for tort reformers. That is because the consequences of an injury at birth are substantial. But it is important for advocates to stand up and protect the rights of all medical patients. The principles of fairness and equality must not be thrown out the window to boost the bottom line of a few special interests.
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