Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Report on medical malpractice reform in Pennsylvania states the obvious while failing to address the real issue

The Post-Gazette reports that the number of medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania has dropped 47% in the ten years since two reform measures took effect.  This should not be surprising.  In fact, it is obvious: I have said this before, if you enact measures to make it more difficult for people to exercise their right to sue, then fewer people will get to sue.  Duh!

The question that should be asked is whether this is a good result for society, for injured patients, for people who want more affordable and safer health care.  Unfortunately for tort reformers, the evidence shows that the only people who benefit from this are doctors - particularly negligent ones -and their insurance companies.  The cost of health care does not go down, in many (although not all) cases the cost of malpractice insurance does not go down, and there is no evidence that the quality of care improves.  Meanwhile the risk of injury remains the same, or may be higher.

Does tort reform reduce the number of medical malpractice claims?  Yes, absolutely.  Is that necessarily a good thing?  I don't think so. The key is in the details of the reform; what it seeks to achieve and how it tries to do it.  Simply saying that fewer cases is good, is useless as a point of analysis and a really bad start for defining social policy.

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