American Medical News:It’s Fiscally Irresponsible Not to Address Liability Reform

A recent opinion piece in the American Medical News written by AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD. highlights the importance of medical liability reform as a way of decreasing the cost of healthcare and repairing the broken medical liability system:

“The economics are irrefutable, and the human evidence is sobering. The present medical liability situation in this country is adding to the already high cost of American medical care, driving physicians away from certain geographies and practice specialties — and shortchanging patients in the process.

We all pay the price for our broken medical liability system and the direct effect it has on the cost of medical care.

Study after study has shown that today’s medical liability system contributes to high health care costs because it forces physicians to practice defensive medicine. This shows up in unnecessary tests ordered and procedures performed, and it also shows up when physicians do not provide certain care to avoid litigation risks. In 2003, the Dept. of Health and Human Services estimated the cost of defensive medicine to be between $70 billion and $126 billion per year.”

The high costs of liability insurance for OB-GYN’s in New York is specifically mentioned in the piece as it is remarkably higher than the rest of the nation.

“As an example, according to a 2009 survey from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than 63% of obstetricians-gynecologists have altered their practice due to the risk of liability claims and litigation. Sixty percent reported changing their practice, such as limiting their number of high-risk patients, due to insurance affordability or availability issues.

In certain areas of New York, gynecologists and obstetricians have seen premiums increase 41% since 2004 — up to $206,913 in 2011. General surgeons in those same areas have seen a 64% increase over the same period. Other states have seen similarly large increases.”

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