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Poll: One in Three Florida Healthcare Dollars Spent on Unnecessary Medical Care

"Doctors order unnecessary medical care because they are in fear that one mistake could wipe out everything they've ever worked for."

Richard L. Jackson

Floridians pay more to keep doctors from getting sued

(December 20, 2011) - One in three dollars spent on health care in Florida currently pays for unnecessary tests and treatments that physicians order to keep from being sued, according to a new Florida physician poll released today by Patients for Fair Compensation. This spending equates to more than $40 billion dollars each year.

The poll, conducted by Oppenheim Research on behalf of Patients for Fair Compensation, showed that of physicians surveyed statewide, 87 percent said they practiced some form of "defensive medicine" in the past 12 months to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits.

That means patients are paying more so doctors don't get sued.

"Doctors order unnecessary medical care because they are in fear that one mistake could wipe out everything they've ever worked for," said Richard L. Jackson, chairman of Patients for Fair Compensation, a new not-for-profit advocacy group.

Oppenheim Research, under the direction of Jay Rayburn Ph.D., Florida State University School of Communications, conducted the statewide survey across a variety of physicians. Those doctors reported that 33 percent of overall healthcare costs can be attributed to the practice of defensive medicine. According to 2009 data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, healthcare in Florida now costs $132 billion annually. Based on its poll, Patients for Fair Compensation officials, estimate that more than $40 billion of Florida's annual health care dollars are spent on unnecessary tests and treatments.

"That kind of money could certainly help pay for the healthcare of many uninsured Americans," Jackson added. "If we eliminate defensive medicine, we can make healthcare more affordable for everyone."

In Florida's current medical liability system, physicians risk personal financial exposure with every decision they make. They also abhor the litigation process. These two factors force physicians to eliminate every potential threat of litigation, resulting in the practice of defensive medicine.

"Patients not only undergo too many unnecessary tests and procedures, but are often denied care as a result of physicians' fear of being sued," said Dr. Jeffrey Segal, Patients for Fair Compensation board member.

Patients for Fair Compensation was founded to educate and propose policy solutions that eliminate the incentives to practice defensive medicine.  By replacing the current medical liability system with one legally modeled after the workers' compensation system, the interests of patients, doctors and taxpayers can be aligned to stop the practice of defensive medicine, optimize quality healthcare and ensure real access to justice.

"It is important to explore the viability of an administrative system similar to the Workers' Compensation system," said James Madison Institute Policy Director Robert F. Sanchez. "At present, the practice of defensive medicine inflates the cost of health care."

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