New Studies Reveal the Harmful Myths of Tort Reform
June 26, 2015
Within recent decades, tort reform has been largely spearheaded by the insurance industry. To push these reforms into policy, insurers (and others) have used various arguments, alleging that medical malpractice suits are frivolous, clogging up the courts, driving up medical costs and even causing doctors to “flee the profession.”
However, recent studies focused on the impacts of tort reforms in various states have revealed that:
- These allegations about medical malpractice suits are myths.
- In states where tort reforms have been enacted, effectively shielding some physicians from lawsuits, medical costs were not reduced, and doctors’ behaviors didn’t change.
- Tort reform has actually impaired progress in enacting patient safety initiatives that could reduce the incidence of medical mistakes, malpractice and resulting medical malpractice lawsuits.
Behind the Curtain of Tort Reform Myths
One of the remarkable studies that has shed some light on the harmful myths of tort reforms is a study that was published in the October 2014 New England Journal of Medicine (“The Effect of Malpractice Reform on Emergency Room Department Care”). This study focused on ER care in three states – South Carolina, Texas and Georgia – that had enacted tort reforms at least 10 years ago. In particular, the study focused on 3.8 million emergency room visits that occurred at more than 1,160 hospitals from 1996 through 2012.
ERs had specifically been chosen as the focal point of the study because, as researchers explained, “emergency physicians practice in an information-poor, high-risk, technology-rich environment.” In other words, ERs could provide some insight as to whether tort reforms were reversing the practice of defensive medicine that is allegedly driven by malpractice fears and that, in turn, is allegedly driving up the cost of practicing medicine.
What researchers found, however, was that doctors in these states prescribed just as many expensive diagnostic tests (like CT scans and MRIs) as physicians in “control” states (i.e., those where such aggressive tort reforms have not yet been enacted).
While this study clearly debunks the tort reform myth that malpractice fears increase the costs of practicing medicine, other noteworthy studies and reports have dispelled similarly harmful myths about tort reforms.
This has led some to call for the reversal of harmful tort reforms, which seem only to be boosting insurance companies’ profits – quite often at the expense of patient safety.
What do you think about the myths of tort reform? Do you agree it’s time to reverse some of the harmful tort reforms and refocus these efforts to improve patient protections and safety? Share your comments and opinions with us on Facebook & Google+.
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