Creation of Specialized Health Courts Would Limit Malpractice Costs, Opinion Piece States
An end to "[s]kyrocketing" health care costs cannot occur without "restoring reliability to the justice system" through the creation of specialized health care courts, Philip Howard, chair of the not-for-profit Common Good, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. Howard believes that one of the "largest drivers" of excessive health care costs is concern about "erratic jury decisions" in malpractice cases, which has "spawned a culture of fear, causing inefficiencies that infect every level of medicine." According to Howard, a recent Pennsylvania study found that more than 90% of physicians practice "defensive medicine" and order "procedures and tests that are not clinically indicated" -- costing tens of billions of dollars, according to some estimates. Howard writes that the solution is the creation of specialized health care courts, which will "restore reliability" to malpractice decisions and "foster confidence" among doctors when making medical decisions. Howard's proposed health care courts would have specially trained administrative judges who would be advised by neutral experts and would "make decisions and write opinions on standards of care." The courts would provide a standardized way of addressing malpractice claims, providing compensation to patients if the injury "should have been avoidable," he says. Under Howard's plan, injured patients would receive compensation for all of their medical bills, as well as lost income, and compensation for pain and suffering would be determined by a preset schedule dependent on the type of injury. Howard writes that health care providers should not "go through the day looking over their shoulders instead of doing what they think is right." He concludes, "The only way to overcome this distrust, and all its debilitating errors and waste, is to create a special health court that is trustworthy" (Howard, Wall Street Journal, 1/6).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.