Medical malpractice in the United States is a difficult and controversial problem. The issue is once again in the limelight as a result of it being virtually excluded from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (The Act), also known as Obamacare. This Act governs healthcare reform in the United States.
Before we delve into the impact of Obamacare on medical malpractice, it is important to understand the basics of this Act.
The Major Goals of Affordable Care Act
The enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act means that American citizens will be required to have health insurance by January 2014. The major goals of Obamacare are the following:
- Provide insurance to uninsured citizens.
- Prevent insurance providers from denying insurance to certain individuals. It also prevents providers from charging higher premiums to individuals with pre-existing conditions.
- Offer more affordable insurance coverage. This will highly benefit low-income individuals and families.
- Encourage companies to grant their employees health insurance.
- Get rid of co-pays and deductibles on certain types of healthcare
Although the Act will be phased-in gradually, preparations are being put into place for how it will impact the healthcare landscape, especially in relation to medical malpractice law. Some believe that Obamacare should include a more substantive approach to addressing the issue of medical malpractice.
The following is what the Senate has to say about the health care reform with regards to medical malpractice:
- It presents a good opportunity to address the problems associated with medical malpractice and liability insurance.
- There should be alternative solutions that promote patient safety, reduce medical errors, encourage proper ruling of disputes, and improve access to liability insurance while protecting the citizen’s right to file a medical malpractice claim.
- The Congress should also consider putting together a program that can evaluate the alternatives to the current civil litigation system with regards to the ruling of the medical malpractice cases.
What’s Missing From Obamacare?
Attorney Michael Ehline of Ehline Law Firm says that Obamacare is not good for tort victims, for the economy, and for the whole country. This is due to the fact that even after a comprehensive healthcare reform, it still fails to address the medical liability issue. Some recommended solutions to the medical malpractice problem have been published in a book called “Obamacare- The Good, the Bad & the Missing”.
According to this book, the solutions to the malpractice problem should not only involve limiting patient damages; instead, the health care reform should target medical errors and other causes of the malpractice claims. By addressing the root cause of the problem, it will lower the potential medical mistakes and the resulting claims. The book also suggests implementing an “Informed Consent” program as part of the patient education initiative. This means that the healthcare provider will need to seek permission from the patient before conducting any healthcare intervention.
The suggested solutions, which target not only the superficial results of malpractice, are “missing” in Obamacare. In addition, its free-market option would deregulate the healthcare reform and will most likely worsen medical errors, resulting to higher malpractice rates.
How Will Medical Malpractice Change Under Obamacare?
Since the enactment of Obamacare, many doctors, legal experts, and insurance companies have started speculating how medical malpractice will change and what to expect. Here are some of their predictions:
There will be an increase in medical malpractice claims: According to recent estimates, there will be around 20-40 million citizens who will gain health insurance under the healthcare reform. This basically means that there will be more patients seeking medical care. This consequently increases the risk of medical mistakes and the resulting medical claims.
There will be no change in the number of medical malpractice claims: Some experts argue that there won’t be an influx of patients. This is because the former uninsured individuals have already received healthcare through free clinics and emergency rooms. No increase in patients means there will be no increase in medical malpractice rates.
There will be a decrease in malpractice claims: Since the goal of Obamacare is to provide health insurance to currently uninsured citizens, people will be able to receive preventive care. This means early medical treatment, allowing doctors to catch health conditions before they become serious. This will later translate to lower medical malpractice claims.
A review of the discussions above indicates a prejudicial view that medical malpractice suits are inherently wrong and reforms need to be put in place to protect our health care system. Few address the real reason for a medical malpractice lawsuit—malpractice. Instead the victim is portrayed as the villain in the equation. Looking past the numbers and statistics, this attitude seeks to strip victims of their constitutional rights and victimize them again.
If medical malpractice reform happens under Obamacare, the new system won’t be the cause of the reform but merely the instrument to enact the longstanding agenda of pharmaceutical corporations, medical companies, and healthcare providers. Their stance has been that malpractice lawsuits are responsible for driving up the cost of health care in America and should be limited by law. If the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act had failed to become law, they would still be pursuing their self-serving agenda under a different cover.
What most people don’t understand about medical malpractice suits is that checks and balances are already in place to protect both the plaintiff and the defendant. Additionally, a settlement awarded by a jury is not like winning the lottery, it is merely bus fare to help the victim survive and move as pain free as possible from one day to the next. The experienced attorneys at Naqvi Injury Law can help you with any questions concerning health care.