Are Medical Malpractice Claims Contributing to Higher Health Costs?

Medical Malpractice Reform

Medical malpractice lawsuits have long been a target of politicians and activists looking to curb healthcare costs. It is believed that the prospect of large medical malpractice judgments (sometimes totaling millions of dollars) has not only made it more expensive for doctors to obtain professional malpractice insurance but it has also caused doctors to put patients through unnecessary and costly tests lest the doctors miss diagnosing an illness or condition and be sued for malpractice. Because of this (the argument goes), healthcare costs rise for all patients.

As a result, these politicians and advocates for reform have convinced a number of states to enact legislative limitations on when medical malpractice lawsuits can be brought and/or limit the amount of damages a successful malpractice plaintiff can recover.

The Other Side of the Coin – Reform is of Little Benefit

Opponents of medical malpractice reform laws state that reform laws only have the effect of keeping injured patients with legitimate claims from asserting their legal rights and/or limiting their ability to recover full and fair compensation for their injuries and losses. These opponents may also have a new argument to use: according to a 2012 study, reform laws do not appear to have much, if any, effect on lowering healthcare costs for patients.

The study looked at the amount expended by Medicare in Texas both before Texas' medical malpractice reform was enacted in 2003 and after reform laws were enacted. The study found that there had been no reduction in Medicare spending between 2002 and 2009. Furthermore, the study concluded that doctors who had the highest risk of being sued for malpractice prior to the enactment of reform laws did not significantly change the number of tests or procedures they ordered after reform laws were put in place.

An Unintended Consequence of Reform Laws?

One consequence of medical malpractice reform laws (an unintended consequence, perhaps) is that injured patients with legitimate malpractice claims now face a much more difficult time in filing and prevailing on their claim. This may encourage some patients who have a legitimate malpractice claim to not pursue that claim for fear that doing so will be too expensive or time-consuming.

It is therefore very important that you seek out experienced and aggressive legal counsel if you have been injured by the careless or reckless acts of a doctor or other healthcare provider. Having the assistance of a skilled lawyer with experience in medical malpractice lawsuits in can help in evaluating the facts of your case and determining if you ought to pursue damages for your injuries. Many lawyers will offer a free initial consultation. Furthermore, experienced legal assistance can also help ensure you comply with the statutes governing medical malpractice cases.

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