KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Unseen Health Costs – Often From Defensive Medicine – Drive Health Costs

The Wall Street Journal reports that defensive medicine is a significant yet small portion of overall health care spending in America.

"Calculating how much defensive medicine actually costs is extremely difficult, because medical professionals often have many motivations for ordering tests and other procedures. The U.S. spends a higher percentage of its gross domestic product on health care than any other nation in the industrialized world. Legal expenses contribute to the bill."

"Even so, health-care experts say the direct costs of medical malpractice -- the insurance premiums, claims paid and legal fees -- amount to a very small portion of overall health-care spending." Total spending on medical malpractice topped $30 billion in 2007 - little more than 1 percent of total health care spending, according to consulting firm Towers Perrin (Searcey and Goldstein, 9/3). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.