In an article I originally found in Medical Economics, Dr. Jeffrey Segal does a wonderful job explaining how defensive medicine drives up the cost of healthcare. Segal, a neurosurgeon, is CEO of Medical Justice and a board member of Patients for Fair Compensation, a non-profit seeking to revamp the medical tort system. His points are summarized below but read the article:
- Eighty-two percent of doctors order more tests and procedures than are medically necessary — and almost on a daily basis — in fear of potential lawsuits.
- About one in four dollars spent in healthcare can be attributed to these tests and procedures that are clinically unnecessary.
- Unnecessary tests and procedures are estimated to cost about $650 billion a year.
- Up to $125 million a year is paid by Medicare for unnecessary tests and procedures and up to $96 billion is paid by Medicaid for unneeded tests and procedures.
He summarizes by saying that:
Doctors often feel compelled to order these tests or treatments because patients demand it. In today’s world, patients expect quick remedies for their symptoms. When they don’t get immediate relief, they push physicians to use the latest technologies to discover what’s wrong. It’s the American way. As long as a doctor feels he could be the potential target of a frivolous lawsuit, he will keep ordering the tests and procedures. The only substantive solution is to revamp our nation’s medical tort system so physicians don’t feel the need to double-check their diagnosis with expensive testing.
Right on, my brother.