Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Man bites dog: The left discovers tort reform

The Center for American Progress -- a "progressive" think tank, for those of you who who do not keep track from home -- has suddenly detected the problem of defensive medicine on account of runaway malpractice liability:

Faced with both financial and nonfinancial costs, the risk of being sued may cause physicians to practice what is known as defensive medicine, or the ordering of excessive and unnecessary medical tests, procedures, or further consultations done in part to protect the physician from accusations of negligence. Defensive medicine increases health care costs without improving health outcomes.

In the most recent peer-reviewed study, orthopedic surgeons recorded in real time whether imaging was required for clinical care or ordered for defensive reasons and found that physicians ordered 19.1 percent of imaging tests and 38.5 percent of MRIs for defensive reasons. Tellingly, physicians who had been sued within the past five years were substantially more likely to order defensive imaging. The same was true for physicians who had practiced medicine for more than 15 years.

Interesting admission from the political allies of the trial bar, about which a bit more below. And note this bit of trickiness from the Affordable Care Act (emphasis added):
The Affordable Care Act provides federal grants for state demonstration projects to test and implement medical-malpractice reforms. But the law strictly limits funding to projects that would not change existing state liability standards—a limitation that rules out most safe-harbor reforms.

It should surprise nobody that Obamacare, passed by Democrats for Democrats, does nothing to trim the wings of the tort lawyers, a core Democratic constituency and a huge source of campaign contributions (around 75 percent of the total in Texas, for example). But the ACA also gives "progressive" wonks and activists a huge interest in making medical care more efficient, which puts them in direct conflict with the interests of the trial bar. The wonks will, of course, be unsuccessful in changing the priorities of the Democratic Party, but the admission that defensive medicine drives costs, perhaps substantially, will be useful in jurisdictions controlled by the Republicans.

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