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“Both GAO and FDA, however, have identified shortcomings in FDA’s postmarket oversight. For example, in 2006 FDA reported that the agency’s ability to understand the risks related to the use of medical devices is limited by the fact that the volume of submitted reports exceeded FDA’s ability to consistently enter or review the reports in a routine manner. In 2008, FDA officials told us that while they have a number of strategies to prioritize their reviews of adverse event reports, they still cannot review all the reports they receive. Finally, GAO has found that FDA has not conducted required inspections of manufacturing establishments, another key FDA responsibility for medical devices marketed in the United States. In 2008, GAO reported that FDA has not met a statutory requirement to inspect certain domestic manufacturing establishments every 2 years. Instead, FDA officials estimated that the agency has inspected domestic establishments every 3 years (for class III devices) or 5 years (for class II devices). There is no comparable requirement to inspect foreign establishments, and FDA officials estimate that they have been inspected every 6 years (for class III devices) or 27 years (for class II devices).”

http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-370T

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Following is a GAO report on medical malpractice and could not find any evidence to substantiate the claims of lawsuits impacting health care costs, access to health care or defensive medicine (with one possible lose connection relating to OBGYN). But of course you will not see this report on any media outlet swinging left or right.

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d03836.pdf

Remember the CBO report regarding the cost of a single payer system that we all grasped to support our arguments against a single payer system…

Well, there is the CBO report which had this to say about tort reform:

“But even large savings in premiums can have only a small direct impact on health care spending–private or governmental–because malpractice costs account for less than 2 percent of that spending.”

http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=4968&type=0#t3

And of course there is Tillinghast-Towers Perrin (one of the largest in the world that provides risk management for the insurance and reinsurance industry).

According to the actuarial consulting firm Towers Perrin, medical malpractice tort costs were $30.4 billion in 2007, the last year for which data are available. We have a more than a $2 trillion health care system. That puts litigation costs and malpractice insurance at 1 to 1.5 percent of total medical costs. That’s a rounding error. Liability isn’t even the tail on the cost dog. It’s the hair on the end of the tail.

Of that 1 to 1.5 percent what portion of that is “frivolous”?

http://www.towersperrin.com/tp/getwebcachedoc?webc=USA/2008/200811/2008_tort_costs_trends.pdf (Page 10)

And then of course the report from Towers Perrin that states that the total tort cost in the US is 2% of the GDP. What percentage of that is “frivolous” and of that percentage what percentage is “frivolous” corporate lawsuits. So how much are “frivolous” lawsuits driving up the cost of everything? Maybe less than 2 cents on the dollar or maybe even less the 1 cent on the dollar?
http://www.towersperrin.com/tp/getwebcachedoc?webc=USA/2008/200811/2008_tort_costs_trends.pdf

It is unfortunate that everyone is so willing to give up their right to sue with such a small cost to society, if in fact these facts are true. If that is the case then maybe we should do something with smokers or overweight people such as myself. After all they present a tremendous cost to society. Or maybe we should ration end of life care as this has a significant cost to society.

Maybe doctors are practicing defensive medicine for other reasons like getting paid for procedures. Maybe doctors are practicing defensive medicine because of the exaggerations of tort costs.  Maybe insurance rates are going up for other reasons and lawsuits and trial lawyers are an easy target because we know how our own exaggerations can drive our anger and hate.

I do not know but the numbers are just not holding up the case for tort reform.