Absent comprehensive tort reform, doctors are often forced to recommend procedures in order to protect themselves from liability claims. The cost of healthcare is skyrocketing, and the over-prescription of so many procedures is part of the problem. The issue of healthcare reform is fresh in Americans’ minds because of recent litigation in front of the Supreme Court. With the hope that Obamacare will be deemed unconstitutional, now is the time to look for alternative ways to decrease the cost of care. In 2005, Cato Chairman Bob Levy outlined the Do’s and Don’ts of Tort Reform. There is much to learn about the limits of federal tort reform efforts from Bob’s analysis and more to learn about what is incumbent upon state politicians in order to protect their constituents.
Tort litigation is an enormous business, much of which never is given a public showing. In 2006 the Mercatus Center reported estimates that “90 percent of potential tort cases are never even filed, and perhaps 90 to 95 percent of the filed cases never see the light of court. What happens to all of those cases? Most of them are settled quietly and discretely; we never get to observe the agreements or how they are reached. Thus, as perhaps 99 percent of the human behavior within the tort system occurs out of court and out of sight, it becomes difficult to measure the effects of tort reforms.” So while liberal organizations often downplay the effect of tort reform legislation on medical costs, the estimates they use don’t paint the entire picture.
There is new hope that physicians and patients are recognizing the overuse of certain procedures and are working toward finding alternatives. On its Choosing Wisely website, the ABIM Foundation has listed 45 procedures that could be overused, resulting in costing patients billions of dollars. The list was generated by nine specialty societies representing 374,000 physicians. Each society suggested five questions patients and physicians should ask. See them all by clicking here.