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Health Hazard

October 1, 2009
By James Copland

The High Costs of Medical Malpractice and Defensive Medicine:• The direct cost of medical-malpractice litigation is $30.

The High Costs of Medical Malpractice and Defensive Medicine:

• The direct cost of medical-malpractice litigation is $30.4 billion annually, according to estimates
• 93% of doctors say they have practiced defensive medicine
• Defensive medicine caused by medical-malpractice lawsuits comprises at least 12% of the relevant gap in health-care spending between the United States and other developed countries

Other Health-Related Litigation Also Hurts Consumers:
• Litigation costs have increased the cost of nursing-home beds 700
• Pharmaceutical litigation increases company costs which are then passed along to consumers.  For example, lawsuits over polio and diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccines drove up the prices 600% and 4,000% respectively.

Trial Lawyers’ Political Giving Has Stymied Reform:
• The American Association for Justice, the trial lawyers’ political action committee, is the second-largest donor to Democratic candidates
• Lawyers gave $127 million to Congressional candidates in the 2008 political cycle—more than doctors and health professionals, hospitals and nursing homes, pharmaceutical companies, and HMOs combined

There is a clear need for tort reform to aid in driving down healthcare costs.  The American people support these measures:  72% of Americans think that fear of lawsuits compromises doctor decisions, and fully 83% want any health-care reform to address medical-malpractice.  Any serious health-care reform should take major steps to reform litigation in the health-care sector. Although litigation reform alone is insufficient to fix the health-care system, it is a key piece of the puzzle.

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