The Wrong Way to Save Money: Malpractice Measure in ‘Gang of Six’ Debt Ceiling Proposal Shifts Costs From Negligent Doctors to U.S. Taxpayers

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The Wrong Way to Save Money: Malpractice Measure in ‘Gang of Six’ Debt Ceiling Proposal Shifts Costs From Negligent Doctors to U.S. Taxpayers

Statement of Christine Hines, Consumer and Civil Justice Counsel, Public Citizen

WASHINGTON - They just don’t give up, despite the fact that their “solution” won’t save money. Included in the cost-saving measures proposed by the U.S. Senate’s “Gang of Six” is “medical malpractice reform” – which historically has been a proposal to shield negligent medical providers from liability for injuries they cause.

Lawmakers claim the measure would help trim the trillion-dollar U.S. budget deficit, but that’s wrong. It won’t, especially when malpractice payments are at a record low, according to 2010 data from the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank. Extensive research has shown that medical malpractice “reform” doesn’t reduce lawsuits or the costs associated with lawsuits. The lawmakers pushing this measure aren’t even trying to put a dollar figure on it; their plan fails to specify the amount of money the government would save and doesn’t even consider the damage that malpractice victims and U.S. taxpayers would incur.

In fact, restricting the liability of private health care professionals transfers the costs of malpractice from private actors to the taxpayers. If negligent doctors and hospitals are let off the hook and are not required to pay for injuries and deaths they cause, taxpayer-funded programs like Medicaid and Medicare will.

Medical malpractice is a serious problem, costing more than 100,000 lives a year. The reforms we need are measures to reduce medical mistakes that injure and kill thousands of Americans each year. Indeed, that approach would save millions of dollars and thousands of lives each year and reduce medical costs.

Shielding doctors and hospitals from accountability is no way to reduce the budget.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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