For several years now, the doctors’ lobbyists and the doctors’ medical malpractice insurance companies have argued that medical malpractice claims and “frivolous lawsuits” are causing doctors to flee their practices. Their argument goes something like this: a patient with a bad medical outcome blames his/her doctor for the harm they suffered and they hire a medical malpractice attorney to search the medical records to find any evidence of a medical mistake or medical error, however minor, that they can convince out-of-control juries was medical malpractice. Then, the medical malpractice juries award too much money against the poor doctors that cause their medical malpractice insurance premiums to skyrocket. Because of rising medical malpractice insurance premiums, the doctors cannot afford to continue providing their patients with medical care and therefore close up their practices and move on to more lucrative careers (such as, what?).
Now, doctors are beginning to acknowledge the main reason that their medical practices are suffering: the shrinking insurance reimbursements that they receive from health insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid, all of which have too much control over the way doctors practice medicine.
One half of all doctors in the United States are in private practice (others are employed by hospitals, etc). Medical specialists such as cardiologists and oncologists are among the doctors suffering from reduced incomes. For example, cardiologists who routinely order and bill for stress tests and echocardiograms have seen their Medicare reimbursements reduced by 35% to 40% recently. Oncologists, who used to purchase cancer drugs wholesale and in bulk and then re-sell the cancer drugs to their patients at a healthy profit, are now subject to changes in Medicare reimbursements (since 2005) that have resulted, in some cases, in oncologists receiving reimbursements for cancer drugs in amounts less than the actual costs to the oncologists.
Patients are also affected by the reductions in reimbursements received by their doctors because the doctors have an incentive to address and treat only one patient ailment per visit because the health insurance companies reimburse doctors per patient visit. Therefore, if patients are made to return for additional, separate visits to address their other medical conditions, the doctors will receive greater reimbursements (that is, separate reimbursements for each patient visit).
And the recent downturn in the U.S. economy has also had an effect on doctors’ profits. Since the average profit for private medical practices is in the 10% to 15% range, when patients don’t pay for the medical services they received, the unpaid amount will reduce the medical practices’ (doctors) bottom line.
Doctors who commit medical malpractice have no right to complain when their victimized patients seek to be compensated by the negligent doctors’ insurance companies for their serious and permanent injuries. Likewise, doctors have no one to blame but themselves when they allow health insurance companies to subvert their professional responsibilities to their patients and dictate how they will practice medicine.
When the medical malpractice committed by a medical professional causes injuries or death, the law holds the wrongdoer responsible for his/her negligent actions. If you or a loved one are the victim of medical malpractice, you should investigate your legal rights.
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