Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2003 / 12 Adar I, 5763

Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak

The Medicine Men
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports


Malpractice Insurance: They Reap What They Sue


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Why do people sue doctors? One answer is Willie Sutton's response when asked why he robbed banks: "Because that's where the money is."

In our increasingly litigious society, doctors are so afraid of crippling lawsuits that they work behind the thin armor of millions of dollars' worth of malpractice insurance - ensuring a lush picnic basket of goodies for attorney ants to attack.

Doctors know that if results don't meet expectations, patients can open the Yellow Pages and find hundreds of attorneys who will gleefully file a lawsuit for them. These attorneys take much of any award if they win or settle the case; if they lose, they get nothing. But win or lose, the doctor always loses because of increased insurance premiums in the future and time lost in defending the case.

Lawsuits for bad results or unpleasant complications of good medical treatment, rather than true malpractice, account for most medical liability costs. True malpractice is another matter; it would - and should - still be tried in a reformed and specialized court and settled on the basis of scientific evidence instead of by a shoot-out duel of hired legal guns in front of a judge.

Although malpractice insurance can cost a physician more than $200,000 a year, the physician is not the only one who bears the cost. Everyone has to pay, either directly in the higher fees the doctor charges or indirectly through higher health insurance premiums.

Parenthetically, some people think their employer pays for their health insurance. Actually, the workers themselves pay for it; if they aren't productive, they will either lose their job or the employer will go bankrupt.

Everyone pays again when doctors order extra tests to make sure their bases are covered in case of a lawsuit. These extra tests add costs but rarely turn up any significant medical condition.

The illusion of deep pockets entices more Willie Suttons to go where the money is. We say "illusion" because the people who see a doctor, go to a hospital, pay health insurance premiums or pay doctor fees are the ones really paying. But, of course, the doctor pays up front, and the burden is driving many out of the profession, especially in states that allow excessive lawsuits, such as Nevada, West Virginia and New Jersey.

A few courageous physicians don't buy insurance protecting against these kinds of lawsuits. This can ruin the day for a plaintiff's malpractice attorney, who often drops the case when there's no easy insurance honey pot to dip into.

But this option isn't just risky; it's also not available to doctors in many hospitals and in some states, such as Georgia and Florida, which require doctors to buy malpractice insurance before they can practice.

The current medical liability system should be radically changed.

To cut down the number of picnic basket goodies, why not allow everyone the option to buy individual insurance to cover bad medical results? This form of "patient medical outcome insurance" would be similar to flight insurance. In other words, those who want coverage for an uncommon medical risk simply insure themselves so they don't even have to hire an attorney to collect.

Individuals buy what they want instead of what the lawyers currently force them to pay for. This would cut the cost of much medical treatment.

Patient medical outcome insurance, coupled with a direct financial relationship with doctors, such as fostered by a Medical Savings Account (MSA) or a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), puts patients back in the driver's seat. They see their own money at work, ask more questions and become better informed.

In addition, doctors can focus on patient care rather than on ordering a lawsuit-proof series of diagnostic tests and writing up lawyer-proof paperwork.

As the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) says, "We need to put patients back in the financial equation, and remove lawyers from it. We need to emphasize individual responsibility and move away from shifting responsibility onto third parties."

If we remove the honey pot for attorneys, medical care won't just cost less, it'll also be of higher quality.

Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.




Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments on medical- legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists. Comment by clicking here.

Up

02/12/03: Hawk, Dove or Groundhog: Diagnosis Critical List; Prognosis Uncertain
02/07/03: How about tax cuts for the "rich" and "poor"?
01/31/03: AIDS Bug Chasers
01/24/03: Libertarian moment or movement?
01/17/03: It's not just 'sue the docs' anymore
01/03/03: A pox on the critics; diagnosis sour grapes
01/03/03: If protesting is good for your health; then at least let's root for the home team
12/20/02: Obesidemic (obesity epidemic) or not?
12/20/02: Time for voluntary informed smallpox vaccinations
12/13/02: The real reason the state opposes homeschooling?
12/06/02: Conscience of a former conservative: Portrait of a political metamorphosis
11/27/02: Thanksgiving dinner hazard?
11/22/02: Time to think outside the box and inside the nucleus
11/15/02: The military should be protected from abusive environmental laws in times of war
11/11/02: Does Kyoto Treaty pose more harm than global warming?
10/31/02: Deep thoughts on Baseball, the World Series and Life: How about them Anaheim Angels?
10/23/02: "Pediatric rule" guinea pigs
10/23/02: Once the World Series ends, we need to create a Donnie Moore Day of Remembrance: Sports and mental health
10/18/02: Congress to senior patients: Do as we say not as we do for ourselves
10/11/02: Using pollution "scare labeling" to political advantage
10/04/02: The Great Asbestos Heist: Did Litigation and Junk Medical Science Helped Bring Down the World Trade Center?
09/27/02: The imminent rise of civic feminism: A far healthier national alternative in war and peace
09/20/02: A Ray A Day" to replace the daily apple?
09/13/02: Beware of celebrities hawking drugs
09/06/02: Avoid 9/11 overdose: Give blood to begin "September of Service," SOS
08/28/02: From Doubleday to strikeday: Baseball's collective anxiety attack
08/23/02: Should she or shouldn't she?: An alternative view on treating menopause with HRT
08/16/02: Cooking up defenses against germ warfare
08/02/02: Medicine, crime and canines
07/26/02: Lies, pathologic lies and the Palestinians
07/19/02: Medicare Drug Follies as in "now you see it, now you don't"
07/12/02: Anti-Profiling: A New Medically False Belief System
07/08/02: Don't procrastinate, vaccinate!
06/28/02: The scientific advances on the safe and effective deployment of DDT are being ignored, or denied. Why?
06/21/02: Sex and the system: In seeking healthcare men are different from women
06/14/02: The FDA, drug companies and life-saving drugs: Who's the fox and who's the hen now?
06/07/02: Medical Privacy Lost: A hippo on the healthcare back!
05/24/02: To clean up America's game: A (soggy) ground rule
05/10/02: Free speech is good medicine
05/03/02: Medicine's Vietnam
04/26/02: Attack on alternative medicine could lead to alternative lawsuits
04/12/02: Insure the 'crazies'?
04/09/02: No Time for Litmus Tests: In War We Need a Surgeon General and NIH, CDC, and FDA Directors
04/02/02: The scoop on soot: A dirty rotten shame?
03/22/02: Too many beautiful minds to waste: The first annual Caduceus Movie
03/15/02: Terror and transformation: Defense essential for health & state of mind
03/08/02: Diagnosis: Delusional
03/06/02: The great matzah famine
03/01/02: Is new Hippocratic Oath hypocritical?
02/15/02: Why the recent moaning about cloning?
02/08/02: Searching for Dr. Strangelove
01/15/02: Score one for the value of human life
01/04/02: Medical-legal-financial wake-up call
12/28/01: Who's afraid of a 'dirty bomb'?
12/21/01: End of medicine?
12/14/01: More heroes: Docs deserve a little credit after 9/11
11/16/01: Do we need 'Super Smallpox Saturdays'?
11/09/01: Why the post-9-11 health care debate will never be the same
11/01/01: Common sense good for our mental health
10/26/01: Your right to medical privacy --- even in terror time
10/12/01: Failed immigration policy ultimately bad for nation's mental health: Enemy within leads to epidemic of jumpy nerves
09/28/01: Can legal leopards change their spots: A treat instead of a trick
09/21/01: Civil defense again a civic duty
08/30/01: Shut down this government CAFE
08/23/01: School Bells or Jail Cells?
08/15/01: Time to take coaches to the woodshed
08/10/01: Blood, Guts & Glory: The Stem of the Stem Cell controversy

© 2002