Posts Tagged - ‘tort reform’

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Affordable Health Insurance and Tort Reform: Overhyped?

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Image: John of Austin under CC 3.0

Are the accusations levied at trial lawyers for medical malpractice lawsuits jacking up health insurance costs overblown? A new analysis of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data by Harvard researchers indicates that they may be.

According to the data, 2.4% of all health care spending in 2008 was related to medical malpractice and defensive medicine (intended to avoid lawsuit). While reducing that percentage could help in bringing about more affordable health insurance, tort reform isn’t a panacea in itself. States with strong tort reform have seen their health insurance costs rise just as sharply over the years.

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Do New York Courts Have A Medical Malpractice Soultion?

Monday, June 21st, 2010

The medical malpractice system has been heavily criticized for its contribution to soaring health insurance premiums. Many doctors practice defensive medicine–performing far too many expensive tests and procedures that are unnecessary, in order to avoid lawsuits.

A judge in New York thinks he has a soultion: treating all parties involved like people. Many families want vindication and justice, instead of extremely large sums of money. By having doctors and nurses apologize for any mistake, he has convinced victims to take smaller settlements as opposed to choosing a jury trial.

The affordable health insurance reform law sets $3 million aside for studying these methods to see if they can work nationally.

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Ron Paul Proposes His Own Healthcare Reform Bill

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Image: Gage Skidmore under CC 3.0

Representative Ron Paul, a libertarian Republican and 2008 presidential primary candidate (and father of Tea Party backed Senate candidate Rand Paul), has written and proposed his own version of healthcare reform. If the GOP is truly interested in fixing the system and not simply scoring political points, they should consider it.

In keeping with his beliefs, the Private Option Health Care Act pending in the House of Representatives seeks to largely keep the government out of private business. There is no mandate to pay a fine if you don’t purchase a qualifying health insurance plan. It uses tax deductions and credits to make insurance more affordable, while encouraging people to sign up for Health Savings Accounts and other high-deductible coverage options that cause them to take greater responsibility for their health care.

It also uses the Constitution’s commerce clause–ironically under fire by Obama reform opponents–to allow the interstate selling and purchase of health insurance plans. At the same time, people will now be able to import prescription drugs from reputable countries with high quality control, like Canada and those in Western Europe. Tort reform is also involved, obviously, as a method of cutting costs. At the same time, consumer protection will be retained through a tax credit that pays for insurance against negative medical outcomes.

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Health Insurance Book Club: The Treatment Trap

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Image: Amazon.com

Many people believe that one of the main causes of rising health care costs is the overuse of care. A new book, The Treatment Trap: How the Overuse of Medical Care Is Wrecking Your Health and What You Can Do to Prevent It details cases of the thousands of Americans injured or killed by unnecessary procedures.

These expensive procedures end up with health insurance rates raised to cover the cost, and to what end? Authors Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prad Singh claim that there many procedures performed are wasteful. For example, why are women given a Pap smear (which tests for cervical cancer) if they’ve already had a hysterectomy–meaning that their cervix was removed?

Fear of medical malpractice lawsuits is just one of the reasons why the health insurance system is forced to foot the bill. This book helps to keep patients informed of the risks they take when seeking a diagnosis.

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Malpractice Worries Make Health Insurance Plans More Expensive

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Image: Patrick J. Lynch under CC 3.0

One of the primary causes of soaring health insurance plan costs is the sheer number of medical procedures and tests done. A recent study has found that up to one-fourth of those tests weren’t done for their actual merit or positive impact on the patient’s health. Instead, they were performed in order to decrease the chance of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Heart doctors are most likely to order invasive tests when other physicians in their area are doing so. Many believe that tort reform could help relieve their worries, and lead to more affordable health insurance because fewer unnecessary tests will be performed.

The healthcare reform bill takes a small step towards that end: it includes funding for states to develop pilot programs that explore alternatives to lawsuits. Some doctor’s offices struggle to remain open due to the expense of malpractice insurance!

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How Would Doctors Lower Health Insurance Costs?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

(Image: Seattle Municipal Archives under CC 3.0)

Whether or not healthcare reform ends up reducing health insurance costs, it is clear that it will not do so alone. Medical expenses make up one-sixth of the U.S. GDP. Doctors are on the front lines of this predicament; so what are their suggestions?

  • Some believe that health savings accounts (HSA plans) should be more prevalent; similar to auto insurance, they mainly insure catastrophes instead of routine care. However, the bill goes further in the other direction.
  • The specter of medical malpractice lawsuits hangs over many doctors, causing them to order unnecessary tests. Despite receiving little notice, there is a provision in the health insurance reform bill that encourages states to develop alternatives. It’s not the tort reform some have called for, but it’s a start.
  • Paying attention to the prevention of conditions before they get worse (and more expensive to treat): nipping childhood obesity in the bud before those children grow up to become obese adults with health problems, and counseling on nutrition.
  • Educating patients on the downsides of overtreatment, whether they are healthy or near the end of their life
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