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Health care symposium concludes malpractice is very minor influence on health care costs

The O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University concluded its symposium this week with the finding that curbing medical malpractice litigation isn't the "silver bullet" needed to slay rising health care costs.  The panel of academics, quoted by McClatchy's Washington Bureau, included medical, law and economics professionals.  It noted that partisan interests make "bloated" anecdotal claims arguing for malpractice reforms, but that in fact they result in only meager cost savings.  It further noted that even in considering so-called "defensive medicine" costs, malpractice claims account for only "2 to 3 percent---at most" of the cost of health care. 

The Institute's findings were very similar to the conclusions reached by surgeon Atul Gawande when he analyzed Medicare costs in Texas:  the problem lies in "fee for service" medicine and an attitude among some medical professionals of "leave no dollar on the table." Texas malpractice reforms had minimal impact on the escalation of costs when compared with the problems Gawande identified.

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