Medical Malpractice Legislation after Obamacare

Medical Malpractice Legislation after Obamacare

If Mitt Romney had been elected president, he pledged to begin dismantling the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, informally known as Obamacare. But with Pres. Barack Obama's re-election, the implementation of the healthcare reform act is almost certain to take place.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Basics

The act's provisions will be phased in over time. Most are scheduled to become effective in January 2014, but some won't be fully implemented until 2020. Among Obamacare's major goals:

  • Reduce the number of uninsured Americans in the United States
  • Encourage companies to provide health insurance to their employees
  • Ban insurance companies from denying insurance to some individuals and charging higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions
  • Require most people to purchase health insurance if not otherwise covered by Medicare, Medicaid or an employer's plan
  • Make insurance coverage more affordable for low-income families as well as small businesses that offer insurance to their employees
  • Eliminate co-pays and deductibles on certain essential types of healthcare

Effects on Medical Malpractice

Since Obamacare was passed, many doctors, insurance providers and attorneys have been speculating about how medical malpractice will change in the wake of the legislation. Among the predictions:

  • Medical malpractice claims will increase. It's estimated that 20 million to 40 million Americans will gain health insurance under Obamacare. Newly insured people will flood doctors' offices seeking medical care they couldn't previously afford. Even if medical mistakes occur at the same rate as they did before Obamacare, an increase in the number of patients will result in an increase in lawsuits.
  • Medical malpractice claims will remain unchanged. Other experts argue that the medical profession won't see a spike in patients. Although tens of millions may be newly insured, those people are already receiving healthcare, but may simply be receiving it through hospital emergency rooms and free clinics, rather than doctors in private practice. No influx of new patients means no change in medical malpractice rates.
  • Medical malpractice claims will fall. Obamacare promises health insurance to many who are currently uninsured. Additionally, it eliminates the co-pays and deductibles for essential healthcare benefits. If these benefits include more preventative care, people are less likely to let problems linger and doctors are more likely to catch medical conditions before they become serious, resulting in a decrease in medical malpractice claims.

Since the act is still being implemented, we don't yet know which of these predictions will come to fruition. Only time will tell.

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