The Wall Street Journal continues its assault on health care reform, warning of "total government control of the health markets." Along the way, the Journal editorial hits the standard conservative media talking points on malpractice "reform."
The Wall Street Journal claims "trial lawyers and their stratospheric jury awards and settlements have led to major increases in the medical malpractice premiums, thus driving up the overall cost of U.S. health care."
But, as Media Matters has previously noted, the claim that lawsuits have driven up malpractice premiums and thus health care costs is overblown:
Malpractice premiums: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has documented the minimal impact that increases in medical malpractice insurance premiums have on overall health care costs. A 2004 CBO report concluded that capping awards at $250,000 for non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits "would basically save only 0.4 percent of the amount that's spent now" on health care. According to the report: "[M]alpractice costs amounted to an estimated $24 billion in 2002, but that figure represents less than 2 percent of overall health care spending. Thus, even a reduction of 25 percent to 30 percent in malpractice costs would lower health care costs by only about 0.4 percent to 0.5 percent, and the likely effect on health insurance premiums would be comparably small."
The Journal then claims that as a result of lawsuits, doctors "practice defensive medicine, ordering unnecessary tests to immunize themselves if they do end up in court. Economists disagree on the precise burden of this legal fear, but some argue that it exceeds $100 billion a year."
Again, Media Matters has noted that these concerns are overblown:
Defensive medicine: As FactCheck.org has noted, claims that "defensive medicine" drives up medical costs -- a principal Bush administration argument for tort reform -- have been dismissed as inconclusive by the General Accounting Office and the CBO. The CBO went further, declaring that there is "no evidence that restrictions on tort liability reduce medical spending."