Friday, May 19, 2006
Interesting piece from the American Prospect. While acknowledging that caps and the like can potentially reduce malpractice insurance rates, Ross Eisenbrey (VP of the Economic Policy Institute) says (a) such reductions will have minimal effect on overall cost of healthcare and (b) we should focus more on reducing medical error in the first place. He uses as one example progress in anesthesia, where deaths have been reduced from 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 200,000 to 300,000 in the space of twenty years. In the same time frame, he says, insurance rates for anesthesiologists have fallen by 37%.
Of course, it's possible for malpractice insurance rates to be a small part of health care costs but still to have a substantial effect on the quality of care, simply through the availability of care. Whether that's true or not is a different issue, but saying that a reduction in insurance rates wouldn't make my health insurance cost much less isn't the end of the issue.
Nonetheless, it seems to me that an effort to join reforms of the liability system to improvements in avoiding malpractice in the first place might be more politically appealing -- at least to some -- than either in the abstract.