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Harvard Study Shows “Cost Savings” of Limiting Medical Malpractice Claims Is Trivial

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According to a recent study authored by several Harvard scientists and published in the journal Health Affairs, the medical liability system–an important system to holding the medical community accountable for malpractice–only amounts to 2.4% of the total amount that Americans spend on healthcare.

While the Health and Human Services’ data indicates that we spent $7,581 per person on healthcare in 2008, the Harvard scientists discovered that only $185 of that total goes toward malpractice insurance, "defensive" medical tests, legal costs and the verdicts and settlements paid to patients. Thus, while tort reformers argue that medical malpractice suits grossly contribute to the cost of healthcare, the results of this study obviously show otherwise. In fact, Amitabh Chandra, one of the authors and a professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government recently stated that the study demonstrates that such simplifications used to argue for the "cost-savings" of limiting medical malpractice claims are wrong.

Medical malpractice claims can be based on a variety of circumstances–from medication errors to infections caused by a hospital’s failure to implement proper sanitation procedures. Sometimes, a medical malpractice suit is a patient’s last option for recovering some of the losses they experience as a result of poor treatment. In addition, when a hospital board refuses to support policies that can reduce the potential for harm to patients, legal action can inspire them to consider the broader economic impact of their choices.