In 2011, Tennessee hospitals and doctors pressured the legislature to make changes to the state constitution so that patients who suffer from medical malpractice would receive a cap on the amount of noneconomic damages they receive for pain and suffering. The Patients for Fair Compensation proposal failed at the General Assembly. However, a new proposal has sprung up in its place.
Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a poll showing that the cost of health care is among the top concerns for voters. That said, Tennessee lawmakers have created a more audacious proposal that they say will help reduce health care costs.
How Do Tennessee Legislatures Want to Eliminate Defensive Medicine?
Tennessee lawmakers have created a model to replace what they call a “broken medical malpracticesystem” with the Patients’ Compensation System. The model seeks first and foremost to eliminate defensive medicine, which is when doctors run unnecessary tests and procedures to cover all their bases in the event they are sued for medical malpractice. Lawmakers say these unnecessary procedures are what is contributing to the rising health care costs.
Additionally, the Patients’ Compensation System would not allow patients who are injured due to negligence by a medical professional to file a claim in court. Rather, the patient would be forced to bring their claim to an administrative panel composed of an administrative law judge and health care experts (though, the proposal does not explain who would qualify as a health care expert).
If this panel finds the patient’s injury could have been avoided while under the physician’s care, the panel will supposedly quickly and fairly compensate the patient. The state legislature says this will eliminate the years of expenses and time patients waste by avoiding the courts entirely. Additionally, the legislature advocates that this will do away with the adversarial connotation associated with patients and clinicians. This proposal states it will make it easier for physicians to acknowledge they made mistakes without needing to fear litigation repercussions.
Will the Patients’ Compensation System Work?
The proposal will only be successful if injured patients receive an amount of compensation comparable or exceeding what they would usually receive had they filed a medical malpractice suit in a court. Moreover, you could argue that the tests doctors run when they practice defensive medicine actually saves lives. Granted, yes, some tests will come up clean and can be deemed unnecessary, but isn’t it better to be safe than sorry when diagnosing a patient? Would not feeling pressure to run tests allow doctors to accidentally overlook a condition they would not normally have seen? Perhaps the concept of a pending medical malpractice litigation hanging over physician heads has actually done more good than harm.
“A Joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22