Defensive medicine costs much less than 'imagined' by malpractice reformists

The combined cost of malpractice -- and doctors' efforts to avoid it by practicing so-called defensive medicine -- costs about $55.6 billion a year, or 2.4 percent of total health spending, according to a new analysis by "Harvard University's Atul Gawande and co-authors, Bloomberg reports. "The yearly price of so-called defensive medicine -- tests, visits and procedures performed to reduce litigation risk -- is about $45.6 billion, the authors said today in the journal Health Affairs, in a report using 2008 dollars." The authors said that is not a "trivial" amount, but less than anticipated by some who made "imaginative" estimates on the issue (Wechsler, 9/7).

For instance, NPR's blog Shots reports, "Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), a physician, said recently on the House Republican website America Speaking Out that the tab runs 'an astounding $650 billion each year. That's 26 percent of all money spent on health care.'" Despite the study's results that the actual figure is less than one-tenth of that GOP claim, the authors say malpractice problems are worth addressing. "We're spending a very large amount of money every year on a system that's deeply flawed," said researcher Michelle Mello, also of Harvard (Rovner, 9/7).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article is republished with kind permission from our friends at The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Daily Health Policy Report is published for, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Copyright 2009 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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