New Study Puts Defensive Medicine Costs at Between $650 – $850 Billion Annually

There continues to be a lot of  debate about the role of defensive medicine in the U.S. health care system — both in terms of the cost and the potential negative impact on health care quality.  With respect to cost, defensive medicine leads to doctors ordering more tests even when they are not necessary to protect themselves from lawsuits.  With respect to quality, people are being given more tests, exposed to more radiation, and provided more treatment even if the evidence suggests they do not need it or will not benefit from it.

But no one is quite sure of the costs of defensive medicine, until today with the release of a new study by Jackson Healthcare entitled: A Costly Defense: Physicians Sound Off on the High Price of Defensive Medicine.
The study, released today, notes in a 22 page presentation the findings of a survey of physicians conducted earlier this year.  Among the findings:

  • Physicians estimate the cost of defensive medicine to be in the $650-$850 billion range, or between 26 and 34 percent of annual healthcare costs in the U.S.
  • Many physicians reported practicing “rule-out medicine” rather than “diagnostic medicine” out of fear that they will miss a diagnosis and be sued.
  • 76 percent of physicians reported that defensive medicine decreases patients’ access to healthcare.

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