A Common Sense Approach to Medical Liability Reform

Medical liability reform is needed to ensure access to health care services. This is especially true if projected data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics will prove to be fact–that there will be a shortage of 200,000 physicians by 2020. Medical liability reform is critical if society is to slow rising and unsustainable health care costs that not impede access, but compromise the quality, of health care. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, costs associated with defensive medicine total between $70 billion and $126 billion annually. These costs are ultimately absorbed by patients who did not benefit from these tactics. Rather, the purpose of these maneuvers is to shield physicians from possible medical malpractice suits. While a number of states have implemented medical liability reforms, federal reform has alluded Congress for more than 14 years. Capson, a provider of medical malpractice insurance, believes the current stalemate regarding medical liability reform is a result of the conversation being rooted in philosophical debate. Instead, Capson believes that introducing irrefutable, common sense solutions can bridge the divide and implement meaningful reforms that meet the shared objectives of all stakeholders. As Congress and many states continue to weigh approaches to medical liability reform, Capson urges consideration of the following key principles: 1.Better communication between doctors and patients can prevent conflicts that may otherwise escalate into medical malpractice lawsuits. Reformers must consider the direct correlation between patient satisfaction and medical liability lawsuits. According to a study in the American Journal of Medicine, physicians who ranked in the lowest one-third of satisfaction rankings were 110% more likely to have malpractice suits brought against them than those with top satisfaction survey rankings. Improved communications that help prevent conflicts are fundamental to reforming our medical liability system—and improving health care in America. Mechanisms that prevent conflicts through increased communication between doctors and patients should be at the crux of medical liability reform efforts. Federal medical liability reforms should not pre-empt state efforts to curb frivolous lawsuits. Many states have implemented medical liability reforms. In fact, a number of elements of proposed federal legislation are based on successful state reforms. States are in the best position to develop, execute and regulate medical liability reforms, given the varying demographics and dynamics. It makes good sense to allow states to continue their efforts and for federal reforms to apply only in those states where medical liability reforms either are weak or do not exist. 2.Establishing caps on punitive damages is one way to ensure that patients who have suffered harm are fairly compensated, without creating undue financial strain on the healthcare system. According to the Physicians Insurers Association of America, the cost of defending a medical malpractice lawsuit that is subsequently dismissed or dropped is $26,000. This means millions of dollars that could otherwise be directed toward quality health care are wasted annually. Establishing caps on punitive damages does not preclude injured patients from collecting economic damages. Rather, such caps help ensure that monetary awards are granted in a sensible and responsible manner. 3.The establishment of health courts or tribunals to hear complaints against physicians can help prevent frivolous lawsuits from moving forward. States that have implemented health courts have a successful track record of keeping frivolous lawsuits from going to trial. It makes good sense to have an independent expert body assess the validity of complaints before they are allowed to move forward in the courts. Capson believes a pragmatic, logical approach to medical liability reform not only benefits the physicians they serve, but their patients as well. Bringing important, relevant matters to the foreground, giving dependable and expert advice when needed and providing medical malpractice insurance are just three ways in which Capson has a positive effect in the community. To learn more about Capson, visit www.Capson.com or call 888-630-2742.

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