Tort reform is the rallying cry of politicians to combat what they see as “frivolous lawsuits.” The have convinced a large portion of the public that insurance companies deserve better protections than everyday people. The Governor of Illinois has made tort reform his central reform issue, despite a mountain of research that shows tort reform simply does not work.
A new study led by Michael B. Rothberg of the Cleveland Clinic and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association aimed to measure how much defensive medicine there is, really, and how much it costs.
The researchers’ conclusion is that defensive medicine accounts for about 2.9% of healthcare spending. In other words, out of the estimated $2.7-trillion U.S. healthcare bill, defensive medicine accounts for $78 billion.
As Aaron Carroll observes at the AcademyHealth blog, $78 billion is “not chump change … but it’s still a very small component of overall health care spending.”
Any “tort reform” stringent enough to make [defensive medicine] go away would likely create other costs, such as a rise in medical mistakes generated by the elimination of the oversight exercised by the court system.
Since it doesn’t appear that “tort reform” would have any effect on this spending, Carroll says, “there seems little reason to pursue [malpractice reform] as a means to dramatically reduce health care spending in the United States.”
Therein lies the myth of tort reform. Insurance companies and the politicians they funnel campaign contributions to, have spent billions convincing you that health care costs are because of lawyers. They want to avoid the real conversation, that medical error is the third leading cause of death in America. Because of the high incident rates of medical error, insurance companies and the health care industry want to prevent you from being able to go to court and obtain justice.