Nothing is Certain Except Death and Taxes (and ObamaCare Ain’t Helping)

by Wayne W. Oliver, Executive Director, Patients for Fair Compensation
Originally published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on April 15, 2014


In a 1789 letter from Ben Franklin to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, Mr. Franklin said “… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Tax time.

This is second year of what will likely be annual occurrence: increased taxes to pay for ObamaCare.

You see, when the President and Congress “cooked” the budgetary scoring for ObamaCare.  President Obama stated in a joint session of Congress in 2009 that ObamaCare would cost $900 billion over ten years. More specifically, he said, “Now, add it all up, and the plan that I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years.”

However, just a few weeks ago, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has revised its cost projections. At $2.6 trillion, the new price tag is almost three-times more than what president promised.

So how are we going to pay for ObamaCare. You guessed it: Higher taxes. And once again, Ben Franklin was correct. Nothing is certain except death and taxes.

So what if instead of raising taxes or cutting healthcare payments to healthcare professionals and providers, we actually did something innovative like reduce the cost of healthcare.

Physicians have indicated that the biggest driver of healthcare costs today is defensive medicine. Defensive medicine can best be described as those healthcare services which have no therapeutic and no diagnostic value for the patient but are ordered by physicians in order to avoid a medical malpractice lawsuit.

According to the Gallup organization, there is up to $650 billion annually spent in the US on defensive medicine. Physicians order unnecessary diagnostic tests and exams, prescription drugs, referrals to specialists, and admissions to hospitals in order to avoid the current dysfunctional medical litigation system.

In Georgia, defensive medicine costs up to $14 billion … annually. And, what do physicians think about defensive medicine. According to Oppenheim Research, three out of four (74%) of Georgia physicians believe that defensive medicine negatively impacts patient care.

Michelle Mello, PhD, a professor at Harvard University is one of the nation’s most well respected patient safety advocates. She indicates that the current litigation system is actually to blame for increased medical errors. In a “shame and blame” system that points fingers at doctors and drags them into court, physicians are not willing to openly discuss errors because of the increased chance of litigation. So the current litigation actually compromises patient safety efforts.

And, in the end, injured patients are the ones who suffer. Professor Mello has said, “First, the (current litigation) system helps very few of the patients that it is intended to help. Secondly, the system hemorrhages money in the process of doing this. Third, the system has some very painful side effects on medicine.”

So we are clear, those “painful side effects” which Professor Mello describes are really serious problems. Defensive medicine is costly, compromises patient safety, hurts patient care by encouraging over testing, over-radiating and over-drugging patients and does all of this without taking care of injured patients.

In 2012, over 9 million Georgians paid up to $14 billion in unnecessary defensive medicine so that 16 medical malpractice juries could be empaneled to compensate a grand total of 3 injured patients. We can no longer afford the current medical litigation.

And ObamaCare just makes the situation even more unacceptable. A new study just released by the Rand Institute for Civil Justice indicates that ObamaCare will increase medical malpractice claims by $120 million a year.

Yes, it’s tax time which is always painful. And, a lot of our tax dollars are being used to fund and sustain ObamaCare. And, our current litigation system is unsustainable.

But, we can and must do better in designing a system which is more cost effective and takes care of injured patients.