Ask The Trial Lawyers Why Your Health Care Costs So Much

Ask The Trial Lawyers Why Your Health Care Costs So Much: Malpractice insurance has gotten so expensive in West Virginia that doctors at four hospitals are taking a one week leave of absence in protest…

“Almost all surgeries were canceled at four West Virginia hospitals beginning Wednesday as more than two dozen surgeons began a protest of the high cost of malpractice insurance.

In one hospital, 18 of the 19 orthopedic, cardiac and general surgeons are taking leave this week in protest. At least one patient was transferred 90 miles Wednesday to another hospital to have an operation.

A similar walkout was averted in Pennsylvania with a promise of a plan to trim the skyrocketing insurance costs.

…All four hospitals are keeping their emergency rooms open. But with the exception of plastic surgeons, they have almost no emergency surgeons available, meaning most patients will have to be transferred 90 miles away to Morgantown or to hospitals in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Dr. Gregory Saracco, 49, a general surgeon who started his leave Wednesday, said he had to borrow money twice last year to pay his $73,000 annual malpractice insurance bill — $40,000 for a state plan and $33,000 to a private carrier. Those costs will go up next year to $100,000, he said.”

When Conservatives correctly complain about how insane these costs are and demand tort reform we’re told, “You don’t care about the little guys. You’re in favor of these rich doctors.” The problem with this is that all of us pay these costs. In order for that “little guy” (and his trial lawyer) to make millions, the rest of us have to pay $4 for an aspirin so the doctors can afford their $100,000 a year malpractice insurance. No, these ridiculous rates for malpractice insurance aren’t the only reason medical costs are so high, but they’re a significant factor. I can only hope that the GOP controlled Congress pursues some serious tort reform this year because our health care professionals and the rest of us who pay medical bills need some relief.

***Update***: The wicked witch of the press core, Helen Thomas, has written a scathing editorial criticizing Bush because he plans to cap malpractice costs. Predictably, she attacked Bush for wanting to, “trample on the rights of citizens”, she says these lawyers are, “are fighting for the consumer”, and she describes attacks on trial lawyers as pleasing those from the, “consumer-be-damned school of corporate wrongdoing.”

So which “consumers” are we talking about here? The consumer who makes millions, maybe even tens of millions of dollars off of a lawsuit (along with their lawyers), or the rest of us who end up paying for it? If 500,000 people pay an extra $20 each in medical costs so one person can get a $10 million dollar settlement, I’d say the consumers got screwed, not that they were being helped.

***Update #3***: From the comments section by RWN reader Fred Smith,

“You have no idea! As a doctor who teaches medical students, interns and residents, we often sit together and talk about how much cheaper (and better) we could treat our patients if we could treat them, like we would treat our own family. We would order fewer tests, prescribe a lot fewer medications, and suggest a whole lot less surgery. Why do we do all of these things? Because if we do the tests, give the medications, and suggest the surgery we won’t get sued! It is sad but true! In addition we get consultations without number, most of which aren’t needed because of lawyers! Get real tort reform instituted (which won’t happen – we keep electing lawyers) and I promise you medical costs will fall by more than 50%!

By the same token, so would the cost of buying a car, groceries, or anything else. Talk to any small business man. Try to buy a small airplane. (I do not have one, by the way!) I have talked to a manufacturer, who told me that the cost of a private airplane had to be increased more than 100% due to legal costs. In almost EVERY case, when a plane crashes, the manufacturer is going to get sued! This entire industry has been almost destroyed by lawyers. Who is next?

Remember breast implants? (By the way, not the smartest idea anyone came up with.) They don’t harm you, but tell that to Dow Corning. They went under due to law suits. Now their product has been scientifically proven to do no harm, but it is far too late for them. The lawyers did them in! The court system is fair? Again ask Dow Corning or O.J. Simpson. I know I’m preaching to the choir on this web site, but oh well.

A disgruntled doctor

PS You are right, we all pay this cost. Congress even figures that when the calculate what a doctor gets paid by Medicare 3 things are considered, the complexity of the procedure, his overhead, and his malpractice risk. (They want to be sure he can pay the lawyers!)”

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