I have called for a series of public forums on Alabama health care as part of my Common Sense Solutions campaign. Politicians in Washington are so preoccupied with nationalizing health care that they have failed to address a fundamental problem – malpractice insurance premiums have reached unsustainable levels.
More and more health care professionals are being forced to leave their chosen profession simply because they can’t afford the sky high premiums they are being charged by their insurers.
The high cost of malpractice insurance has especially impacted doctors in rural counties in Alabama and throughout the South where many of their patients are covered by Medicare and Medicaid, with low reimbursement rates.
What can we do to reduce their costs? The last several years have seen an explosion of frivolous lawsuits in the medical malpractice field and they have resulted in higher insurance premiums for all medical professionals. First and foremost, we desperately need medical malpractice lawsuit reform.
Health care reform without malpractice lawsuit reform is no reform at all. The failure of President Obama to endorse malpractice reform is clear evidence that he is not serious about cost reductions in health care. Congress must explicitly address the costly lawsuit abuses that hamper our health care system and hurt our economy.
Those insurance premiums have reached an unprecedented level. If we don’t address this issue, we won’t have meaningful cost reductions in health care expenses. Frivolous lawsuits are a large and ever growing factor to increased health care costs. Experts estimate that the annual direct cost of such litigation is over $30 billion per year.
The failure of politicians in Washington to address the basic problem of medical malpractice insurance premiums has left many areas of Alabama with a shortage of health care professionals. Malpractice insurance premiums have increased dramatically here in Alabama and across the nation, while politicians have turned a blind eye.
Flimsy litigation over pharmaceuticals and medical devices acts as a deterrent to innovation in the marketplace, lengthens the time that it takes to get new drugs and devices approved and adversely affect research and investment decisions on the part of manufacturers.
Defensive medicine is another result of the explosion of litigation. Doctors frequently order numerous medical procedures and make unnecessary referrals in order to limit their exposure to lawsuits. These unnecessary tests and procedures and referrals result in spiraling medical costs. If we take immediate steps to reform medical malpractice litigation, we will see a corresponding benefit in reduced malpractice premiums for all of our health care professionals.
Cross posted at Tim James for Governor 2010
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