Gang of Six tort reform savings challenged

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"Limits on liability for doctors who commit medical negligence is a political bone for the Gang of Six to throw for buy-in from Republicans, not a meaningful compromise that will provide real savings to help close the deficit," said Carmen Balber, the group's Washington director. "President Obama should reject this gimmick in favor of solutions that are proven to reduce the cost of medical malpractice: improving patient safety and decreasing medical errors."

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that medical liability reform could shave 0.5 percent off national healthcare costs. Half the savings are expected to come from lower medical malpractice rates, and the other half from a decrease in "defensive medicine" — additional testing and screening, for example — that doctors are believed to practice so they can't be accused of having done too little for patients.

Consumer Watchdog's statement points to a past letter to President Obama's deficit commission that questioned the savings assumptions for tort reform. One of the group's arguments is that any savings from a hypothetical reduction in defensive medicine would be offset by an increase in negligence.