New Study Finds Malpractice Reform Weak on Savings


The Washington Post is reporting that a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine debunks the myth that medical malpractice "reform" correlates with health care savings. Specifically the study disproves the notion that medical malpractice lawsuits drive physicians to order other unnecessary tests and supposed legal reforms reduce such wasteful spending.


The study looked at three states that have implemented some measure of medical malpractice "reform" (Texas, Georgia and South Carolina). The study compared these "reform" states with neighboring states which have lower barriers for bringing malpractice lawsuits. Researchers reviewed more than 3 million Medicare claims for three main metrics: how often ER physicians ordered advanced imaging studies — the most common defensive medicine procedures ordered by ER doctors (and among the most expensive), the rate of inpatient admissions following ER visits, and total charges for an ER visit.


If the so called "tort reforms" freed up doctors to take fewer defensive measures it would be expected to see reductions in those metrics. However, the results found nothing really changed in these three states. Only Georgia exhibited a small reduction in charges per patient. The article notes that another recent study found that defensive hospital orders accounted for just 2.9% of hospital costs, mostly attributable to additional days of hospitalization.


These studies shed important light on the myths widely perpetuated by insurance companies and other supporters of "tort reform". Such laws often have the chilling effect of preventing those who have been legitimately wronged from achieving justice and eroding the 7th Amendment right to a jury trial in civil cases.