Tab for medical malpractice at least $7 billion

Dayton Daily News
Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Medical malpractice falls in the range of $7 billion to $108 billion a year. The difference shows the lack of agreement on the cost of defensive medicine, the clinically unnecessary steps doctors take to avoid malpractice losses.

'There is a culture of fear with physicians,' said Tim Maglione, the Ohio State Medical Association's director of government relations. 'Because of the way the system is, they're inclined to order five more tests when only one test might be necessary.' But a little extra fear isn't a bad thing, patients' advocates say, when growing concern over medical mistakes prompted Congress to authorize a $50 million study of patient safety. Aside from deaths and injuries, the federal Institute of Medicine said, preventable mistakes in hospitals alone cost $24 billion to $48 billion a year.

'I think most people in this country see that through managed care and quality issues, the lack of enough defensive medicine is costing people's lives,' said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice & Democracy.

The $108 billion figure comes from Daniel P. Kessler's research on heart patients under Medicare in 1984, 1987 and 1990. 'Malpractice reforms that directly reduce provider-liability pressure lead to reductions of 5 to 9 percent in medical expenditures without substantial effects on mortality or medical complications,' he concluded.

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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