[CBO] seems to base its new analysis on a small handful of studies, several of which are noted to contradict each other. One of them suggests that 50,000 more people could die in the next ten years (beyond the 98,000 that already die annually from medical errors) should Congress further limit legal rights of patients.…
Even with all of its flaws, which are explained [in the fact sheet], the CBO’s finding are noteworthy for a number of reasons:
• Cost Savings. CBO finds that even if the country enacted the entire menu of extreme tort restrictions listed, it can go no farther than to find an extremely small percentage of health care savings, “about 0.5% or $11 billion a year at the current level -- far lower than advocates have estimated.” To put this in perspective, it totals about what Americans spend annually on dog and cat food.
• Defensive Medicine. Despite much heated rhetoric about the widespread use of so-called “defensive medicine,” CBO finds no evidence of this except in studies of Medicare. It does not find it in studies of private managed care systems. Obviously doctors operate under the same liability rules no matter the patient’s age, so the explanation for this disparity cannot lie with the legal system. Rather, according to CBO, the problem is Medicare’ emphasis on “fee-for-service” spending, whereas private managed care “limit[s] the use of services that have marginal or no benefit to patients (some of which might otherwise be provided as ‘defensive medicine).” In other words, CBO virtually admits that to the extent defensive medicine exists as all, it can be controlled through simply managing care correctly as opposed to taking away patients’ rights and possibly killing and injuring more people.
• “Tort Reforms” Can Increase Costs, Not Save Them. CBO’s evidence suggests that the single most widespread “tort reform” currently on the books – limiting joint and several liability, a measure that now exists in over 40 states – has the opposite impact on costs, i.e., it “may increase the volume and intensity” of physician services. The only logical conclusion is that not only should Congress not enact this measure, but states should repeal these laws, as well.