A TIME Magazine cover story about medical bills has recently received a great deal of media attention. The American public is quite familiar with the fact that the cost of medical bills is causing even insured Americans to lose their financial footing. However, the TIME story makes clear that it is not just the bottom line medical costs that are harming Americans at nearly every income level but also the line by line costs.
When a patient becomes a victim of medical malpractice, any resulting judgment will likely include damage amounts for pain and suffering as well as damages for medical bills themselves. The amount of medical malpractice damage awards is a subject of great controversy nationwide. Though nearly all Americans can agree that patients who have suffered negligent harm deserve to be compensated, the amount of compensation they receive can seem unjustifiable to the untrained eye.
For example, say that a patient harmed by a physician becomes disabled as a result of his or her care. Of course the patient should be compensated. But is a multi-million dollar judgment really necessary? Surprisingly, yes. In addition to the fact that the patient will need long-term care as a result of the medical mistake, the care itself costs a fortune. A patient who has suffered brain injury for example, may need round the clock care for the rest of his or her life.
When the line by line costs of any given procedure, treatment or drug are not correctly calculated, the total cost of care inflates out of control. This affects the overall award judgment amounts that medical malpractice victims must receive in order to cover the costs of their care.
This is a complex issue with significant consequences. Please check back in with us tomorrow as we continue our discussion.
Source: TIME, "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us," Steven Brill, Feb. 20, 2013