The Pros and Cons Surrounding Tort Reform
If a patient believes they have been mistreated by their healthcare professional, they are able to file a medical malpractice claim with the help of a medical malpractice lawyer. If the healthcare professional is found guilty of medical malpractice, they could be potentially liable for millions of dollars. This is a lot of pressure for physicians, especially since their position could easily fall prey to human error. Any slipup could ruin the doctor’s career and cost the hospital or healthcare facility a ton of money.
A recent study found that the annual cost of medical malpractice in the United States is $55 billion – over 2 percent of the nation’s yearly healthcare expenses. Another study also discovered that $153 billion was spent on defensive medicine. Defensive medicine is a practice where the doctor will perform unneeded tests or treatments to avoid any potential legal action. This means that they are going beyond the clinical necessities, not to help the patient, but just to stay out of trouble. While this safety precaution may not sound like a terrible idea, it’s costing Americans billions of dollars in waste.
Because medical malpractice and defensive medicine are costing Americans so much money, there are several reform proposals in place (called “tort reforms”). These seek to lower the burden on physicians in order to cut costs. However, tort reform isn’t unanimously supported. Here are a few pros and cons of the proposals.
The fiscal pros behind tort reform are imperative to its ongoing argument. Since 93 percent of physicians admit to using defensive medicine to protect themselves above their patients, it could save the American healthcare industry billions of dollars each year. Additionally, tort reform would still allow mistreated patients the opportunity to file lawsuits against true medical malpractice. However, the compensatory damages paid to the defendant would have a reasonable cap—a proposed $250,000. This would cover the patient’s medical bills and compensate them for any additional pain and suffering caused by medical malpractice.
On a more negative note, tort reform could potentially lead to more injuries and harm to patients. If healthcare professionals don’t have to worry about high fiscal consequences, they are free to continue making the same mistakes and paying the mistreated patients just enough to cover their medical expenditures. Additionally, since tort reform focuses more on the actual case than the monetary compensation, it could take several months or years for the patients to receive their damages. This means the money would arrive way after the initial medical costs were incurred.
Tort reform has been an ongoing debate since the 1970s as the government attempts to find a compromise that will benefit both physicians and patients. While all can agree there is room for improvement, altering anything within the legal or healthcare industries takes time and cooperation. At the end of the day, both parties are working to determine the best solution for all.