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Third of medical costs defensive medicine

Jan. 14, 2012 at 10:45 PM   |   Comments

ALPHARETTA, Ga., Jan. 14 (UPI) -- About one-third of healthcare funds in Florida goes for unnecessary tests and treatments physicians order to avoid being sued, a survey indicates.

The poll, conducted by Oppenheim Research on behalf of Patients for Fair Compensation, a non-profit group dedicated to replacing malpractice litigation with a patients' compensation system it says would eliminate up to $650 billion per year in medical costs nationwide, indicates 88 percent of Florida physicians said they practiced some form of "defensive medicine" in the past 12 months to protect themselves from lawsuits. Defensive medicine is the practice of ordering medical tests, procedures or consultations in order to protect the prescribing physician from malpractice lawsuits.

Oppenheim Research, under the direction of Jay Rayburn of Florida State University's School of Communications, conducted the statewide telephone survey of 327 physicians Dec. 27. The survey has a margin of error of 5.5 percentage points.

The findings indicated 33 percent of overall healthcare costs could be attributed to the practice of defensive medicine, the group said. Data from 2009 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Florida healthcare costs about $132 billion annually.

Based on the survey, Patients for Fair Compensation officials, estimate more than $40 billion of Florida's annual healthcare dollars are spent on unnecessary tests and treatments.

"That kind of money could certainly help pay for the healthcare of many uninsured Americans," Richard L. Jackson, chairman of Patients for Fair Compensation, said in a statement. "If we eliminate defensive medicine, we can make healthcare more affordable for everyone."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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