Despite assertions that large medical malpractice payouts are largely responsible for the rising cost of health care, a new study by doctors from Johns Hopkins suggests that these claims are mistaken. The research revealed that malpractice payouts account for less than 1 percent of medical expenditures in the United States. The study, directed by Dr. Marty Makary, associate professor of surgery and health policy at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, reviewed nationwide medical malpractice settlements and judgments from 2004 to 2010. According to Makary, the data shows that legal reform efforts should focus on curtailing defensive medicine rather than establishing caps on malpractice awards and settlements. “The real problem is that far too many tests and procedures are being performed in the name of defensive medicine, as physicians fear they could be sued if they don’t order them. That costs upwards of $60 billion a year. It is not the payouts that are bankrupting the system — it’s the fear of them.” Makary maintains that the findings support the need for more research to determine procedures to prevent catastrophic errors and improve patient safety. He also asserts the need to reduce unnecessary diagnostic tests and procedures as a means to lowering health care cost.
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