November 13, 2003

medical malpractice crisis

You may have heard, somewhere in the background of the daily barrage of complaints which plague your life, a low noise, a din, a grumbling that seems omnipresent but which rarely grows so loud that you are forced to pay any attention. I'm talking about the "medical malpractice insurance crisis."

This panel discussion tomorrow will bring the problem to the fore and hopefully offer some interesting ways of thinking about it.

In brief, the problem is that doctors are being charged a lot for malpractice premiums, causing some of them to leave high-risk (and high-premium) practices like obstetrics.

That's it. That's the problem.

"What?" you say, "that's it? Aren't you going to say anything else?"

Nope. In fact, I've probably already said too much. Virtually every element of this "crisis" is contested. The doctors' groups (like the AMA) maintain that high premiums are the result of runaway jury awards in malpractice suits. The trial lawyers say that's ridiculous; the problem is that insurers are charging too much and scapegoating the jury awards that justly compensate patients who've been victimized by negligent doctors. The insurers accuse the trial lawyers of taking all the money awarded by juries, leaving none for the patients.

And a few policy wonks (can anyone say, glorfindel?) think it's unlikely anything will get better until a) patients and juries feel they have some degree of control over what they believe to be a health care system built for everyone but them, and b) the medical profession finds some rational way of addressing medical error that doesn't involve sweeping it under the rug or denying that devoted doctors ever screw up.

But that's enough for now. I'll go to the discussion tomorrow, and post more on this topic later.

Posted by Carey at November 13, 2003 06:27 PM
Comments

As in most cases in our society, the real victims in any conflict are the only ones involved who truly have little or no power to affect the outcome of the conflict.

Most people have little or no choice in how they're plugged into the joke that substitues for a health care system in this country. In most cases, those that are plugged in in some way can only get down on their knees and thank whatever diety they worship that they're allowed to participate at all.

Over and above the idiocy of the health care system as a whole, this is an issue of blame. Everyone's blaming the next level in the process, while the poor bastard that had his left arm amputated when he went in for an arthroscopy is sitting around wondering how, in the name of all that's ever been holy, his freaking arm was cut off (probably due to a misplaced chart or some doctor not getting enough sleep the night before or something equally mundane).

And the poor bastard STILL needs the damned arthroscopy!

Posted by: Brian at November 13, 2003 08:44 PM

Well...assuming it wasn't on his left arm, in which case he'd be sitting pretty.

Posted by: Brian at November 13, 2003 08:45 PM