Republicans are bound and determined to make changes to the Affordable Healthcare law. Whether those changes entail a complete repeal and replacement or changes to the existing law is yet to be seen. There is one change, however, that many are talking about, and that’s implementing more aggressive malpractice legislation.
Republicans are bound and determined to make changes to the Affordable Healthcare law. Whether those changes entail a complete repeal and replacement or changes to the existing law, is yet to be seen. There is one change, however, that many are talking about, and that’s implementing more aggressive malpractice legislation.
Are you wondering what more aggressive malpractice legislation would look like? Well, it would become easier for patients to sue doctors, something that supporters of these new laws claim are “necessary to improve care.” However, according to a recent report, more aggressive malpractice laws “don’t necessarily protect patients from surgical complications.”
Dr. Karl Bilimoria, the leader of the study, put it plainly when he said, “the risk of litigation doesn’t always translate into better outcomes.” As the director of the “Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago,” he has studied the industry long enough to know what he is talking about. According to him, “it doesn’t really work – malpractice environment doesn’t influence doctors to provide better care. Rather, it may lead to defensive medicine practices where more tests and treatments are ordered unnecessarily just to try to minimize malpractice risk.”
But what kind of evidence did Bilimoria and his colleagues find to make such a conclusion? Well, they spent time studying “state-specific data on medical malpractice insurance premiums, average award size and the number of claims for every 100 physicians in each state as of 2010.” Additionally, they also looked at data from 2010 “on the odds of death, complications or repeat operations within 30 days surgery for patients insured by fee-for-service Medicare, the U.S. health program for the elderly and disabled.”
The results Bilimoria and his colleagues found revealed that not a single individual state malpractice law was “consistently associated with improved post-operative outcomes.” In fact, the reality was quite the opposite. States with more strict malpractice laws, where doctors regularly face an increased risk of malpractice claims being filed against them, patients were actually about 22% “more likely to develop sepsis” and “9% more likely to develop pneumonia, 15% more likely to suffer acute kidney failure and 18% more likely to have gastrointestinal bleeding.”
If this study revealed anything, it’s that some of the aggressive changes and new laws Republicans want to tie into their healthcare reform simply aren’t “associated with better outcomes,” according to Michelle Mellow, a Stanford University law professor. But if pressuring doctors won’t result in better outcomes for patients, what is a realistic solution to ensure patients are receiving quality care that doesn’t pressure physicians with the fear of litigation? According to Dr. Anupam Jena, a Harvard University researcher, “Changing the standards against which physicians are judged, either by ensuring that all states adopt national standard laws, or using administrative courts that hold physicians to a pre-specified clinical standard” would be a great way to start.