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#3 CLAIM: Medical errors and poor quality are increasing costs. #4 CLAIM: Malpractice lawsuits are the number one reason why costs have risen so much.

#3 CLAIM: TRUE

#4 CLAIM: FALSE

Let’s tackle #3 and #4 together because as our health system stands now, lawsuits are the main tool we have for dealing with medical errors and bad care. The two must surely be linked, right?

Our health care delivery system is seriously flawed and full of human error, with few checks and balances in place to keep it from getting worse. = TRUE

Nearly 30% of health care spending in the U.S. – $500 billion a year in 2005 – is for treatments that may not improve health status, may be repeating something that has already been done, or may be inappropriate for the patient’s condition .

Medical errors are reaching epidemic proportions:

  • The number of deaths from preventable medical errors range from 98,000 a year (almost double the number of American deaths in Vietnam) to 195,000 (equal to two jumbo jets going down every day for a year).
  • Medication errors are the most common medical errors, harming at least 1.5 million people every year.
  • Serious injuries associated with medication errors increased from about 35,000 in 1998 to nearly 90,000 in 2005. More than 5,000 of these cases ended in death in 1998, up to 15,000 deaths in 2005.
  • Medical errors are said to cost around $38 billion a year.

Malpractice lawsuits keep doctors in check and prevent future harm. = FALSE

If medical errors are high then wouldn’t that lead to more lawsuits? While malpractice costs are certainly going up, payouts to patients aren’t.

  • What doctors are paying for malpractice insurance has increased 20 times faster than the malpractice payouts to patients.
  • The 15 largest medical malpractice insurers in the United States raised their net premiums by 120% between 2000 and 2004, while their net payments on claims rose by less than 6%.

BOTTOM LINE

If we want to keep trying to sue medical providers into better quality then we need to reform the malpractice system to incorporate real oversight and accountability.
Or we could work to improve the quality of U.S. health care in order to prevent these painful mistakes and lawsuits altogether.