Defensive Medicine Driving up Health Care Costs

Michele Bachmann
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Posted: Sep 01, 2009 11:58 AM
Last week, in four different public venues across central Minnesota, I heard firsthand the people’s concerns about the future of their health care. While there was certainly a mixed bag of opinion from every part of the political spectrum, fear of and opposition to a government takeover of our health care system was most evident. And understandably so.

Regardless of your political party or ideology, one thing we can all agree on is that reforms must be made to our health care system. We’ve got top-notch medical professionals and high-quality treatments, but too many Americans can’t access that care because of high costs.  It's important that we do not get lost in the glamour of big overhauls and look past meaningful reforms, like association health plans that let small businesses bond together to reduce coverage costs or health savings accounts that let you save for care tax-free. Bigger is not necessarily better.

On Sunday, the St. Cloud Times published an op-ed I submitted detailing the bipartisan reforms that exist that can make care more accessible and affordable without tearing down the parts of the structure that have worked well for millions of Americans. And, one of the reforms I highlighted was tort reform.  If we want to bring true change to our health care system, one of the most clear-cut ways to do so, and one that has not been given much consideration by the Democrat leadership, is to tamp down on frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits.

Rich Karlgaard with Forbes magazine really lays out the case in a piece he published called: Our Health Care Crisis: Age, Obesity, Lawyers.

"--We are afraid of lawyers. The biggest cost is not malpractice awards, which annually drive up U.S. health care costs by 1% to 2%--$20 billion to $40 billion a year--although that's bad enough. Most costly is the individual doctor's perceived threat of a career-ending malpractice award and his or her incentive, therefore, to practice defensive medicine. This occurs when a doctor, fearing a lawsuit, orders a battery of costly diagnostic tests to rule out the highly improbable, even when the obvious cause of sickness or injury is staring him in the face.

"A Massachusetts Medical Society study discovered that in one year Massachusetts wasted $1.4 billion on defensive medicine. Prorated for the entire U.S. population, the cost would be about $66 billion a year. Another study cited by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons puts the cost of defensive medicine much higher--$100 billion to $178 billion per year. I believe it."

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Like I said in my op-ed, our nation’s deficit and debt are at all-time highs. Medicare and Medicaid are broke. Social Security is broke.
 
Can we really afford to trust Washington when it asks you to entrust them with your health care saying it will not only reduce costs, but increase both accessibility and efficiency for all Americans? Let’s make reforms, yes, but do so in a way that won’t break the bank.