Bernie Marcus: End the need for defensive medicine

By: Bernie Marcus

Appeared in Tallahassee.com on April 28, 2014


Four years after the passage of President Obama’s signature health reform plan, we hear news every week of its negative impact on American families and the national economy. Unfortunately, the Sunshine State is in for a one-two punch of its own.

Recent Florida Supreme Court rulings on tort reform guarantee employers will see rising health insurance costs. Physicians here also will see hikes in their malpractice premiums, already among the highest in the nation. Together, these changes will be devastating to Florida’s job market.

Medical malpractice drives health-care costs up with an expensive side effect — defensive medicine. Concerned about malpractice claims, physicians order more tests, procedures and medications than are medically necessary.

Health-care premiums won’t stop rising until Congress and state legislatures get control of health-care costs. Florida lawmakers are currently considering a bold, innovative plan known as the Patients’ Compensation System (PCS). The state Senate bill by Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, and companion legislation in the House by Rep. Jason Broduer, R-Sanford, would cut the practice of defensive medicine, lower health-care costs, prevent lawsuit abuse and create a better environment for employers.

According to a Gallup survey of physicians, defensive medicine costs Florida employers and citizens up to $40 billion annually. That’s about $2,000 per Floridian.

In a peer-reviewed study by Emory University Professor Joanna Shepherd-Bailey, adopting the PCS alternative to traditional medical litigation could help Florida employers afford to hire an additional 47,306 to 100,717 workers.

That same report indicates that, with a PCS, Florida employers can save between 10 and 22 percent of the average cost of providing an employee health insurance.

The PCS solution would replace present-day medical malpractice litigation with a program similar to today’s workers compensation system. Injured patients would file a claim with an expert panel, which would determine if a medical injury had occurred. If so, the PCS would determine fair compensation.

National advocacy groups are working hard to pass the bill, and Oppenheim Research, a Tallahassee-based company, discovered that 93 percent of Florida doctors support the PCS proposal.

So why is Florida Professional Insurance Co., one of Florida’s largest medical malpractice insurers, standing in opposition? The answer: It profits immensely from the current system, which drags doctors and hospitals through the courts.

Florida has an opportunity to lead this bold reform that cuts health-care costs and creates new jobs in the process. There’s no excuse for the Legislature not to embrace this innovate approach.

Bernie Marcus is co-founder and former CEO of The Home Depot and founder of the national Job Creators Alliance