Patient compensation system could replace malpractice torts

Could a state-administered patient compensation system take the place of the current adversarial medical malpractice tort system?

That's the question Jeffrey Segal, M.D., CEO of Medical Justice, and Wayne Oliver, executive director of Patients for Fair Compensation, posed in Forbes. The pair suggest the use of what is known as a no-fault modeled anchored by the patients' compensation system, or PCS.

Under the PCS, physicians and hospitals would no longer be sued for medical malpractice. Instead, hearings would be held in front of a panel of healthcare experts. Should the panel find that a medical injury was preventable, the patient would receive compensation.

A study by researchers at Emory University in Atlanta concluded that such a system would cut the cost of healthcare in Georgia alone by $7 billion a year by greatly reducing the amount of defensive medicine that is practiced.

Georgia does not mandate that physicians carry malpractice coverage, which can range from $13,000 a year to $56,000 for premiums, depending on the specialty. As a result, some 8 percent of doctors who practice in Georgia do not carry coverage. Those physicians would be required to compensate patients directly if they were to lose a malpractice action.

The alternative appears to pencil out favorably when compared to a study of tort reform efforts in Texas and South Carolina. Researchers with the RAND Corporation concluded that reforms enacted in those states had little impact on how doctors ordered and employed CT and MRI scans, with only a tiny reduction of hospital emergency room visits, according to Forbes.

By contrast, a poll of physicians conducted by the Florida-based Jackson Healthcare system in 2012 concluded that 62 percent believe that the use of a PCS would cut down on the unnecessary utilization of tests and other hallmarks of defensive medicine.

PCS-style systems are currently being mulled by lawmakers in both Florida and Georgia.

For more:
- read the Forbes article