«

Apr 17

There is a Solution for Healthcare Affordability

by Wayne W. Oliver
Originally published in the Tallahassee Democrat on January 12, 2017
http://www.tallahassee.com/story/opinion/2017/01/12/oliver-solution-health-care-affordability/96494312/

Health care continues to be at the center of debate across our nation and in Florida’s State Capitol. But while many focus on the number of Floridians covered by some form of health insurance, equal attention should be paid to the ever-increasing cost of health care.

The cost of health care affects everyone: the insured, the uninsured, employers and the state. If costs are reduced, by definition health care becomes more accessible and more affordable for all Floridians. We must therefore look at spending on the front end and develop effective mechanisms to contain costs while considering any state options for extending coverage to more people.

In Florida, the fear of medical litigation among physicians has manifested itself in the practice of defensive medicine – ordering unnecessary medical tests, medications, CT scans, referrals to specialists, procedures and consultations. These have little or no clinical or therapeutic value but may help physicians protect themselves against a potential malpractice lawsuit.

In Florida alone, the practice of defensive medicine costs Floridians more than $40 billion per year. According to the Gallup Organization, wasteful defensive medicine accounts for as much as 26 percent of overall health care spending.

The current dysfunctional and inefficient medical malpractice system is therefore imposing an avoidable and onerous burden on a wide swath of Florida’s economy, impacting Florida’s physicians, patients and businesses. A proposal called the Patients’ Compensation System is intended to transform the broken medical malpractice system in Florida and preserve the physician-patient relationship.

The proposal would remove medical malpractice from the inefficient court system and place it in a streamlined administrative system. Rather than flooding the courts with lawsuits that take years to resolve, the administrative model allows for a less contentious, more fair and timely determination of any compensation that should be paid to an injured patient.

Joanna Shepherd, Ph.D., associate professor of law at Emory University School of Law, detailed in her article “Justice in Crisis” that the current system offers justice for three percent and no justice for 97 percent of medically injured patients. The vast majority of attorneys require minimum expected damages of $500,000 to accept a case.

This creates major access to effective health justice issue for a significant number of injured patients in our state who have no access to a judge and jury. Yet attorneys and insurers have created a profitable niche within the existing medical tort system. We need a system that ensures access to legitimate health justice that fairly and appropriately compensates all medically injured patients.

The Patients’ Compensation System works to ensure cost savings to our state, private employers and citizens, eliminates frivolous lawsuits, and ensures all legitimately medically injured patients receive fair compensation, especially those who are currently denied access under the existing system.

The system would make Florida a national model for how to protect the physician-patient relationship while bringing down health care spending in Florida, and will likely be considered in the 2017 Florida legislative session.

About the author

admin