The United States health care system is undergoing some significant reforms. Numerous efforts are being undertaken to improve the accessibility to health care and to cut the general costs that are linked to health care services. This has led t a strong need for health care reforms. Among the major issues that need to be put into consideration during the health care reform debates is the topic of tort reforms. According to the United States president, Barack Obama, tort reforms are lagging with respect to the health care reforms. This is a major setback for the health care reformers since the costs for medical; liabilities impact negatively on both the accessibility and costs of health care.
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The ever-increasing clever-increasing ice in the health care industry is threatening to decrease the number of hospitals and doctors in the various states of the U.S.; thus, policymakers are forced to look into the factors that are causing these crises. The crises have been linked to various factors such as the increasing number of claims that are being filed and the severity of the filed cases. Thus, policymakers are investigating the flaws of the medical litigation process. The policymakers are also concerned with the doctors’ reactions to the malpractice’s varying environment and the impacts of the malpractice tort law on the application of defensive medicine.
There debate on the existence of defensive medicine is a debate that has been ongoing since the early 1970s. The United States Congress Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) defines two forms of defensive medicine: the negative and the positive defensive medicine. The positive defensive medicine occurs when medical physicians order additional medical tests on a patient so as to avoid malpractice liability; basically, positive amounts to the additional exploitation of health care. On the other hand, negative defensive medicine refers to situations where physicians avoid certain medical practices or patients for the fear of malpractice liability; negative amounts to the decrease in the utilization of health care facilities (United States Congress, 1994). The existence of defensive medicine leads to the deviation from sound medical practices and greatly increases the costs of health care provision.
The medical reforms that have been proposed by the Obama administration have led to an improved quality of health care. However, reforms are required for medical liability; tort reforms that awards damages for the harm that is caused would be a viable solution by instituting an upper limit to the damages that are awarded for any malpractice. Kessler, Summerton, and Graham (2006) found out that tort reforms would greatly reduce the practices of defensive medicine. This would be achieved through the reduction of medical expenditures and the reduction of mortality rates and medical complications. Additionally, it was evident that states that had capping laws had lower per capita health expenditures than the states that had no such regulations. In a similar situation, the passing of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA) by the State of California that imposed a cap of $250,000 on non economical damages led to the reduction of the malpractice premium by more than 75% with the number of plaintiffs who received damages being reduced to a third (Hellinger, & Encinosa, 2006).
In conclusion, it has been proved that tort reform is not just theoretical but practical. The efficacy of the reforms have been premeditated for decades and found to be valuable in decreasing the health care costs, boosting the accessibility of the heath care services and raising the quality of the medical care. Thus, tort reforms should be adopted and implemented by all governments.
Hellinger, F.J., & Encinosa W.E. (2006). The Impact of State Laws Limiting Malpractice Damage Awards on Health Care Expenditures. American Journal of Public Health, 96(8), 1375-1381.
Kessler, D.P., Summerton, N., & Graham J.R. (2006). Effects of the Medical Liability System in Australia, the UK and the USA. Lancet, 368(9531), 240-246.
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U.S. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment. (1994). Defensive Medicine and Medical Malpractice. Washington, DC: U.S. Governments Printing Office.