Poll: One in four healthcare dollars spent unnecessarily

One in four dollars spent on healthcare in America pays for unnecessary tests and treatments that physicians order to keep from being sued, according to a new Gallup poll.

The survey, released by Jackson Healthcare and the Center for Health Transformation, showed that of physicians surveyed nationwide, 73 percent practiced some form of “defensive medicine” in the past 12 months to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits.

“Healthcare would be cheaper for every American if we could slash the cost of defensive medicine,” said Newt Gingrich, founder of the Center for Health Transformation. “Think of how often each of us gets sent for extra lab work or tests that seem so unnecessary."

“Meaningful health reform must address these unnecessary costs,” he said.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, healthcare in America costs $2.5 trillion annually. Based on Gallup’s survey, Jackson Healthcare officials estimate that $650 billion of that is spent on unnecessary tests and treatments.

Gallup conducted the six-week survey across all specialties of physicians. They reported that 26 percent of overall healthcare costs could be attributed to the practice of defensive medicine.

“Doctors order unnecessary medical care because they are in fear that one mistake could wipe out everything they’ve ever worked for,” said Richard Jackson, chairman and CEO of Jackson Healthcare, an Atlanta-based healthcare management company.

CHT has suggested addressing civil justice reform, or discouraging frivolous lawsuits, through several means, including health courts that only consider medical malpractice cases.

“That kind of money could certainly help pay for the healthcare of many uninsured Americans,” Jackson said. “If we eliminate defensive medicine, we can make healthcare more affordable for everyone.”

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