Medical malpractice lawsuits are not a big deal, says the trade group representing lawyers who make millions of dollars suing doctors and winning awards that routinely exceed the limits of common sense. The American Association for Justice has released a "primer" on medical malpractice lawsuits as a preemptive defense against House Republican efforts to keep malpractice awards within the bounds of reason.
Here is just one example of the shoddy reasoning being used to defend jackpot settlements and judgments:
If doctors feel they need to practice “defensively” and order extra tests to avoid the liability, and if all this defensive medicine results in excess health care costs, then states that have already limited liability for doctors through tort reform should experience significantly lower health care costs than states that do not limit liability. Texas has some of the strictest caps in the country, which should eliminate any need to practice “defensively,” thereby lowering health care costs in the state. Yet Texas has some of the highest health care costs in the country. Health care costs in McAllen, Texas, have been growing at a faster rate than any other area in the country, and the cost of health care per patient is currently second highest in the nation.
This is a logical fallacy. Medical malpractice liabiliy, which is estimated to add 2.4 percent to the annual cost of health care in the United States (between malpractice premiums, settlement costs, and, most of all, defensive medicine), is only one of many factors that make health care more expensive. No, overall costs will not necessarily be lower in Texas, or in McAllen -- that depends on a large number of other factors. (Although on a per capita basis, the State of Texas is actually below the national average for the last year in which the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services provides data).
But think of it this way: 2.4 percent, as it happens, is the entire amount Obamacare is supposed to save annually through 2018 according to Obama's economic team, If you can save any substantial fraction of this amount with medical liability reform, why wouldn't you? Especially if you can do it without raising taxes by $770 billion or imposing a command-and-control health care regime from Washington.
Here's why you wouldn't: To protect someone's gravy train.