“Defensive Medicine” Explored in New White Paper

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For Immediate Release: September 30, 2009

Contact: Ray De Lorenzi
202-965-3500, ext. 369

“Defensive Medicine” Explored in New White Paper

Research finds little evidence, no cost savings to be gained

Washington, DC—The vast majority of academic and government research has uncovered little evidence that health care providers run more tests due to liability concerns; rather, patient safety or profit motives are the real reasons for conducting medical procedures.  That key finding is from a new white paper by the American Association for Justice (AAJ) exploring a topic that has been subjected to myths and distortions during the health care debate.

The evidence is clear that the direct costs of medical malpractice are an insignificant percentage of overall health care costs.  But tort reformers have claimed “defensive medicine” is an indirect driver of health care costs, despite the extensive government and academic research on the subject.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) have discredited the concept, while also debunking research that has claimed to find such evidence.  Numerous academics have come to similar conclusions, all finding that extra tests are run because it benefits patients or due to the fee-for-service payment structure.

“Health care reform should rely on data and sound research, not anecdotes or guesswork,” said AAJ President Anthony Tarricone, managing partner at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP.  “The evidence has shown time and again that medical tests are done to benefit patients, or in some instances, as excuses to generate more profit.  To claim it’s for liability reasons alone simply is not borne out by the facts.”

The white paper also examines the genesis of an oft-cited study purporting defensive medicine costs billions of dollars a year – originally calculated by Stanford economists Daniel Kessler and Mark McClellan, then recycled by the Bush administration’s Department of Health and Human Services, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).  Despite the costs they report, both the CBO and GAO ridiculed such findings and found no evidence of extra testing due to liability concerns.

This new white paper is one of a series of reports AAJ has created on medical negligence.  Previously, AAJ released Medical Negligence: A Primer for the Nation’s Health Care Debate.  All research is located at www.justice.org/medicalnegligence.

The Truth About “Defensive Medicine” can be found directly at:  http://www.justice.org/resources/Medical_Negligence_-_Defensive_Medicine.pdf.

As the world's largest trial bar, the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) works to make sure people have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others—even when it means taking on the most powerful corporations. Visit http://www.justice.org/newsroom.

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