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More Evidence that Tort Reforms Do Not Decrease Health Care Costs

By Paul da Costa on October 29, 2014


We have previously blogged about legal reforms of medical malpractice lawsuits as a way to reduce healthcare spending.  In some cases, doctors order unnecessary and costly medical tests on patients in order to protect themselves in the event of future medical malpractice litigation against them.  One study, recently reported on in The New England Journal of Medicine, hypothesized that emergency room doctors, who often have little time to gain extensive information about their patients, may be particularly prone to practicing defensive medicine.

The study analyzed three states, Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina, that had each enacted legal reforms elevating the standard in medical malpractice cases involving emergency care to gross negligence. The researchers analyzed Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries in the three states that had enacted the reforms and in nearby states that had not.  The study controlled for a number of variables and compared “patient-level” outcomes prior to the enactment of reforms and after.  Outcomes included changes in use of particular diagnostic tests, including CT scans and MRI scans, cost of medical care, and the rate of hospital visits.

The study found that there was no decrease in the intensity of care for eight of the nine states studied.  The rates of admission to the emergency room, CT scans, and MRI scans did not decrease in any of the states that had enacted reforms.  Furthermore, in Texas and South Carolina, there was no decrease in the cost of medical care, while in Georgia the decrease in cost was 3.6%. Thus, the study concluded that legal reforms had little impact on the care provided to emergency room patients.  This alludes to the fact that doctors still practice defensive medicine, and any legal reforms to lessen this practice will not reduce health care costs.

If you or a loved one has been injured because of a doctor’s negligence, you may have a medical malpractice claim.  The experienced attorneys at Snyder & Sarno, LLC can help you with your case.  Call us today at (973) 274-5200. 

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