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The Affordable Care Act and Medical Malpractice Reform: What You Need to Know

Affordable-Care-Act_640The goals of healthcare reform have not changed. Lawmakers want to ensure that everyone has access to the health care deserved – and there is nothing wrong with that. Most providers have already agreed that cost savings would be more recognized if there was meaningful reform. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) discussed that very thing when it was being created. One of those discussions covered the limitation of future damages for patients who were injured by medical negligence, modifying the collateral source rules, and funding to the states for experimenting with litigation alternatives.

The only portion of this discussion that passed with the final ACA was section 10607, which stated that the Secretary of Health and Human Services could award demonstration grants to states for developing, implementing, and evaluating alternatives to the traditional tort litigation. This did not eliminate malpractice litigation; instead, it just looked for new ways to resolve medical malpractice claims. The risk will still remain for all providers, and providers will be held accountable for acts of negligence. Malpractice coverage is also required by all treating physicians.

Why the ACA May Lead to More Malpractice

When consumers do not have access to affordable health care, they do not see physicians. They may visit a free clinic, but in most cases, uninsured individuals do not seek treatment. Now that affordable health care is available to everyone, more patients have the coverage that they need to receive routine and emergency care. Because of the increase in patient volume, it is likely that medical malpractice claims will also increase. After all, physicians are not only required to take on more patients (overwhelming their schedules and increasing the rate for errors), but hospitals will be flooded with more patients, clinics overbooked, and details overlooked.

Because of the risks, physicians often practice what is referred to as defensive medicine. These physicians look for ways to prevent future malpractice claims often by ordering more tests than necessary – out of an abundance of caution. While in most cases this is not an issue, in some cases, patients could have multiple tests that are unnecessary and even be prescribed medications they don’t need just because the physician doesn’t want to risk a lawsuit. Also, some providers may be more prone to ordering C-sections instead of natural deliveries – because the C-section carries less risk of error of things going wrong during birth.

Outpatient and Inpatient Care is Divided

Another issue with the ACA is how patient care is split up. Patients are no longer the responsibility of just one practitioner. Instead, they may see their family doctor in one setting, but their in-patient care is done at a hospital. Despite all of the advances in electronic health records, this divide in patient care almost always leads to some sort of breakdown in communication. When a breakdown occurs, the risk for injury and error also increases.

Do Not Let Affordability Affect Your Care – If You’re Injured, Speak with an Attorney

Just because health care is available and affordable does not mean that physicians can lower their standard of care. If you or a loved one was injured due to a preventable medical error or a physician’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. To get started, contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Call 866-479-7909 or contact us online.

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