Every year, 100,000 people die and hundreds of thousands more suffer devastating injuries thanks to medical errors. Yet instead of focusing on how to reduce the number of deaths and injuries in America, many members of Congress like Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have been making wild claims about “defensive medicine,” a term for doctors performing unnecessary tests and procedures due to the fear of litigation. Proponents like Speaker Boehner have blamed “defensive medicine” for rising health care costs and, in turn, attempted to bolster their case for passing legislation that would limit patients rights to sue.
Public Citizen decided it was time to take a hard look at this issue. The end result is a report, over
one year in the making, that examines the twelve most preeminent studies on “defensive medicine” and health care costs. Taylor Lincoln, research director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, headed up this effort, putting in hundreds upon hundreds of hours with Public Citizen colleagues.
Key findings of our just released report on “Defensive Medicine: The Doctored Crisis” are:
• The most empirically sound, evidence-based studies show that liability concerns have no more than a minimal effect on health care costs;
• Doctor surveys are unreliable and provide fodder for most of the alarmist claims on defensive medicine;
• Many of the tests and procedures that some attribute to defensive medicine are the same ones that come with financial incentives for the provider; and
• Reducing litigation does not reduce health care spending because fear of litigation is unrelated to the actual risk of litigation. Litigation has declined over the past decade, while health care costs have skyrocketed.
For more, check out our press release on the report and read Andis Robeznieks piece entitled, “Consumer group goes on offense about defensive medicine.”
As congressional Republicans and President Barack Obama are both calling for new policies on medical liability, people like Caroline Palmer hope they will keep in mind her case. In 2007, Caroline Palmer had to have both of her arms amputated due to medical errors. Recently, Palmer was upset to learn that Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia), her representative in Congress, is currently leading the push for passage of the “Help Efficient Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act of 2011, or H.R. 5,” a bill that would let all the players in the medical industry – doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, nursing home providers and the medical device industry – off the hook when they injure or kill people with recklessness. Find out why Ms. Palmer and Public Citizen find it ironic that Representative Gingrey wants to limit patients rights to sue.
Ready to take action? Please call the Capitol Switchboard at (202)224-3121 and ask for your senators’ and/or representative’s office and tell them to oppose H.R. 5 and to stop using “defensive medicine” rationale to explain health care cost increases and justify limiting patients right to sue.