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Health Affairs Takes on Health Care’s “Unfinished Business“
The September issue of Health Affairs is dedicated to our nation’s broken medical liability system. Protect Patients Now was encouraged by the attention that was given to this critical issue – unfortunately they chose to ignore key factors that are contributing to an out-of-control liability system.
While the issue is filled with studies detailing the cost of meritless lawsuits and defensive medicine, it puts a price of $46 billion annually on the cost of unnecessary tests and procedures – a number on the low end of other recent studies.
The Health Affairs articles suggest that physicians overestimate the risk of being sued, a claim proved false by an AMA study below showing just the opposite, and suggests improvements to patient safety as the solution to the problem.
In a letter to the editor of Health Affairs, HCLA leaders write, “Your focus on improving patient safety, which is critically important, tells only part of the story. Bogus claims made by predatory personal injury lawyers threaten patient access to care, encourage the practice of defensive medicine, and increase health care costs for all. These issues must be addressed along with patient safety – not cast aside in
favor of it.” The HCLA’s letter will be published in the upcoming issue. Click here to read an advance copy before publication.
It is our hope that Congress can sweep up some of health reforms’ unfinished business, instead of simply sweeping them under the rug. Improved patient safety and a realistic accounting of the costs of defensive medicine and meritless lawsuits, coupled with comprehensive medical liability reform, will ensure that the system benefits patients, not personal injury lawyers.
Cut Out Tax Cuts for Personal Injury Lawyers
As if personal injury lawyers needed more incentive to bring forward meritless lawsuits against physicians, recent news reports say that the Treasury Department is considering revising federal tax policy in their favor. The change would allow personal injury lawyers to claim a tax deduction on expenses in gross fee contingency cases — before a judge or jury has even ruled on the case.
Existing tax rules allow trial lawyers who pay litigation costs upfront for clients to claim tax deductions on those expenses only if there is no award.
Over 90 state and national medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, sent a letter to the Treasury Department opposing this change that would add a financial incentive for lawyers to continue to abuse the medical liability system, even when the chance of an award is slim to none. You can click here to read the letter.
“Such a change is estimated to cost taxpayers over $1.5 billion and could act as a financial incentive for trial attorneys to file less meritorious lawsuits against physicians and other health care providers,” the letter stated.
Tax cuts for trial lawyers are certainly not what the doctor ordered. To read more about the devastating effect this would have on our medical liability system, click here.
New Study Shows Fear of Lawsuit Abuse is Real
While personal injury lawyers and their powerful political allies claim that doctors are exaggerating the threat of lawsuits and ordering expensive tests regardless of the risk of being sued, a new study by the American Medical Association proves otherwise.
When it comes to the chances physicians face in terms of being sued, a new AMA report shows they can expect a lawsuit not as matter of possibility, but of probability. Nearly 61% of physicians older than 55 report that they have been sued.
Another key finding from the report was even more disturbing. Among physicians surveyed by the AMA, there was an average of 95 medical liability claims filed for every 100 physicians – nearly one claim per every practicing physician – and most of these cases are without merit. The AMA study noted that physicians prevail 90% of the time when a case goes to trial. Most cases never even get that far – 65% are dropped, dismissed or withdrawn, but still cost physicians tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and lost wages. To read the full study and its findings, click here.
Take Action to Help Stop Lawsuit Abuse!
This month, Protect Patients Now launched a new website format at ProtectPatientsNow.org. The new action-oriented site will allow you to share studies, information and fact sheets with your friends via Facebook and Twitter, sign medical lawsuit abuse petitions that are forwarded to policy makers in Washington, and keep up with breaking news on the liability reform front.
We’re keeping the conversation in Washington focused on our broken reform system and the proven solutions that were overlooked when sweeping health care reform legislation was signed into law this spring.
Join us in our efforts by visiting our website often and encouraging others to sign up for email updates. Thank you for your continued support of Protect Patients Now!