(Natural News) When it comes to assigning blame for America’s expensive health care system, there is plenty to go around.
The federal government shares much of it, considering that health care is one of the most regulated industries in the country. Even before Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act and President Obama signed his namesake legislation into law, the federal government’s byzantine, labyrinthian medical regulatory regime made providing care far more complex than it needed to be. But then again, when you factor in the reality that with Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration, the U.S. military and a workforce of 1.4 million people, the federal government is by far the largest purchaser of health care and health care services in the country, it’s no wonder Congress and the federal bureaucracy want so much control over the healthcare industry.
Government regulation isn’t the only driver of costs. Patient actions have a lot to do with rising costs. Unreasonable demands for medications (especially antibiotics) and medical procedures, even when primary care providers don’t believe they are necessary, helps drive up costs.
But there is also another primary driver of health care costs, and that’s civil litigation. That’s one of the biggest reasons, in fact, why doctors say at least 20 percent of all medical care is unnecessary, according to Healthcare Dive.
The site reports that a recent survey of 2,106 physicians in the United States found, on average, that they think 20.6 percent of medical care is not needed, and that includes 22 percent of prescriptions, nearly a quarter of all tests, and 11.1 percent of procedures. (Related: Donald Trump believes in health freedom, not government dictates.)
The “overwhelming majority” of those surveyed — 84.7 percent — said that they overtreated because they were worried about a malpractice lawsuit, the study, which was published in PLoS One, noted.
Also, nearly 70 percent of physicians were at least fairly certain profit drives or encourages over treatment, while most surveyed thought fee-for-service reimbursement would really cut down on the over-utilization of medical services.
The site reported further:
In addition to de-emphasizing fee-for-service payment, more than 55% of respondents said residents should be trained on appropriateness criteria and more than 50% said easier access to outside health records and more practice guidelines could reduce overtreatment.
Researchers said that fears of malpractice may be outsized because other research suggests that only about 2-3 percent of patients that are actually harmed via negligence seek legal representation and take action. And within the last decade, paid-out claims have been reduced by half.
Nevertheless, judging by the survey numbers, the fear is very real, and that very real fear is translating into over-treatment and additional costs.
One thing that government might do that could actually help lower costs and get rid of at least some over-treatment: Malpractice reform. Currently, Congress is considering some version of reform; in June, the House barely passed a bill that caps non-economic damages in malpractice suits at $250,000, while limiting lawyers fees that lawyers can charge in such cases. The bill has the support of Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services, who himself is an orthopedic surgeon and someone who is intimately familiar with the difficulties private practice clinics and hospitals face in dealing with the government regulatory regime.
Really, though, what’s needed is more health freedom and choice to drive down costs, as Natural News founder/editor Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, has argued for years. That, and more flexibility for providers who are being pressured into providing unnecessary care by patients. For that to change, the laws will have to change, and specifically, rules contained in Obamacare that tie government reimbursement rates to patient “satisfaction” scores.
J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for NaturalNews.com and NewsTarget.com, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.