From this afternoon's speech at the Washington Hilton:
Our fifth policy to confront high cost health care and to make sure private medicine is central in the United States is to confront the glut of frivolous lawsuits that are driving good doctors out of practice and driving up the cost of health care. (Applause.)
To avoid junk lawsuits, professionals in the health care field are forced to practice defensive medicine. They order tests and write prescriptions that are not necessary, so they can protect themselves from trial lawyer lawsuits. One hospital CEO in New York said, "Fear of liability does nothing but threaten patient safety by discouraging open discussion of medical errors and ways to prevent them."
The total cost of defensive medicine to our society is estimated at $60 billion to $100 billion a year, and that includes $28 billion billed directly to the American taxpayers through increased costs of Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Affairs, and other federal health programs. The costs of frivolous litigation are more than financial; they hurt patients all across America.
Most Americans are shocked when I cite the fact there are nearly 1,500 counties in the United States without an OB/GYN. We want our doctors focused on providing compassionate care, not fighting junk lawsuits. We want our hospitals pursuing innovative and promising ways to heal, not battling lawyers who second-guess them in the courts. This is a national issue that requires a national response. The House of Representatives have passed a good bill. The Senate has done nothing on medical liability reform. For the sake of affordable and accessible health care, we need medical liability reform this year. (Applause.)
The bill pending in the Senate is S.22, a variation of H.R. 5, which passed the House last year. It doesn't appear to be up on THOMAS yet.