Experts: GOP ‘Med Mal’ Reforms Unnecessary

What medical lawsuit ‘crisis’?

Republicans have been declaring a lawsuit-abuse “crisis” for as long as I can remember.

The new HHS Secretary, Tom Price, M.D., has gone so far as to claim that medical malpractice litigation is responsible for 25 percent of all health care costs! (See him make the claim about 45 seconds into this Fox News video clip.)

The reality is very different, experts say.

Medical malpractice litigation adds more like 3 percent to overall medical costs.*

So why are Republicans so gung-ho to impose topdown federal reforms, including caps on damage awards? Because medical professionals view lawsuits as a threat to their reputations and a nuisance, and Beltway Republicans, who are close to the physicians’ lobby, have talked themselves into believing that the problem is much bigger than it really is.

Some good physicians do get sued, unfairly. And that’s a shame. But one can strongly sympathize with their plight without buying into the claims of a “crisis.”

And one can support reasonable reforms to reduce health care costs, including reasonable state-level litigation reforms, without having to support a federal takeover in this area.

Health care costs are too high, but litigation isn’t the cause. The cause is found mostly in misguided government policies and the poor design of such huge government subsidy programs as Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and the tax treatment of employer-provided health benefits.

Reforming those programs to put consumers in charge of their own health care dollars will do a thousand times more good than even the most stringent “med-mal reform.”

There’s no need for meat-ax federal “med-mal” reforms. And indeed, there’s a need to oppose them: the U.S. Constitution leaves civil justice matters to the states.

For more on this topic, see these posts by yours truly .

Or if you just want one good, quick read that hits all the main highlights, I recommend this one, from the Washington Post“Top Republicans say there’s a medical malpractice crisis. Experts say there isn’t.”

On this issue, the experts are right.

Dean Clancy, a former senior budget official in the George W. Bush administration and senior policy advisor to congressional Republicans, writes on U.S. fiscal, health policy, and constitutional issues. Follow him at or on twitter @deanclancy.


Update, Feb. 28: A new white paper released today confirms the fallacy of claims that ‘med-mal’ lawsuits are a significant driver of health care costs.

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