From neurosurgery to dermatology, nearly all doctors practice this "defensive medicine" and it isn't, as conspirators claim, to make more money - it is to avoid blame if something goes wrong with a patient that was basically unavoidable.(1)
In that way, COVID-19 may have accomplish something positive that lawyers have prevented; it may mean less defensive medicine.
The new data on treatments during the pandemic has given analysts a giant database of patients who got treatments or tests that can be compared to similar patients who did not. The results can be framed as saving potentially "billions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs" but could also mean a lot less money for lawyers. Just like vaccine lawsuits have to actually show harm - not just get a sympathetic jury and use emotion, like lawsuits about baby powder do - data showing how little benefit is gained by unnecessary tests and procedures (2), and how much of those are due to defensive medicine policies, could spur tort reform.
No one 85 needs a colonoscopy yet if doctors didn't do them in 2019, they opened themselves up to a lawsuit if a patient got colon cancer.
Eliminating that sort of thing is all that's needed to save up to $106 billion for the public. America is the only country that allows unchecked trial lawyer demagoguery against health care. That savings includes unnecessary stuff that doctors know won't help, but may even be more risky than doing nothing at all - which will also get them sued. People had a lot less of this in 2020 and won't have greater harm. That's important.
In cases of legitimate malpractice or negligence, of course there should be penalties, but nearly all such cases now are instead nuisance lawsuits to drive a quick settlement. All they have accomplished is driving individual practices out of rural areas that really need them. The cost of business is too high for smaller markets to bear.
That makes it more expensive to treat people over time. Expenses that are borne by taxpayers. Tort reform could make real prevention possible, by halting the waste of unnecessary procedures done despite the knowledge of doctors. Real data could do a world of good.
(1) Half of neurosurgeons in overly lawsuit friendly states like areas like New York, California, and Washington DC admitted they had stopped performing high-risk procedures because of liability concerns - malpractice insurance in those states is double states that don't hate science and medicine, premiums are 20 percent of their revenue. And nearly all order duplicate tests and imaging so that when the subpoena arrives their documentation is ready.
And lawsuits will arrive. Nearly 75 percent of obstetricians and gynecologists receive malpractice claims within 15 years of going into practice.
(2) Getting rid of nonsense like chiropractors as part of covered care would be useful also. Taxpayer dollars being spent so someone call tell you vaccines are unneeded is both dangerous and financially foolish.
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- Would Immunity From Malpractice Reduce 'Defensive Medicine' Costs?