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AP Poll: Most Want Malpractice Reform

From, of all places, the Associated Press:

John Edwards

AP Poll: Support for curbs on malpractice lawsuits

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR and TREVOR TOMPSON (AP)

November 19, 2009

WASHINGTON — Most Americans want Congress to deal with malpractice lawsuits driving up the cost of medical care, says an Associated Press poll.

Yet Democrats are reluctant to press forward on an issue that would upset a valuable political constituency — trial lawyers — even if President Barack Obama says he’s open to changes.

The AP poll found that 54 percent of Americans favor making it harder to sue doctors and hospitals for mistakes taking care of patients, while 32 percent are opposed. The rest are undecided or don’t know.

Support for limits on malpractice lawsuits cuts across political lines, with 58 percent of independents and 61 percent of Republicans in favor. Democrats are more divided. Still, 47 percent said they favor making it harder to sue, while 37 percent are opposed.

The survey was conducted by Stanford University with the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Limits on jury awards in malpractice cases could reduce the federal deficit by $54 billion over 10 years, says the Congressional Budget Office, because doctors caring for Medicare and Medicaid patients would order up fewer tests to guard against being sued

In the poll, 59 percent said they thought at least half the tests doctors order are unnecessary, ordered only because of fear of lawsuits.

The issue pits two of the most powerful lobbies in Washington against each other: doctors and trial lawyers.

Doctors complain that fear of frivolous lawsuits prompts them to practice defensive medicine, running up costs. They say malpractice insurance premiums are so high in parts of the country that some doctors avoid certain areas, even relocate.

Lawyers argue that limits on lawsuits infringe on the constitutional right of each citizen to have his or her day in court. And they point out that 44,000 to 98,000 people die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors — from misdiagnosis to getting the wrong medication — a glaring problem for a country that prides itself on the world’s most advanced medical care.

The poll suggests that patients see medical errors as fairly common. Twelve percent of those who’d been in the hospital in the past five years — and 10 percent of those who’d been to the doctor in that time period — said they thought there had been a mistake in their treatment. People were more forgiving of errors in the doctor’s office than in hospitals…

Some trial lawyers took issue with the AP survey, saying the poll question did not fully address the harm patients suffer from medical malpractice.

"If (people) knew about the frequency of medical errors, we believe they would have answered this question very differently," said Linda Lipsen, a top lobbyist for the American Association for Justice, which represents lawyers.

The poll was based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,502 adults from Oct. 29 to Nov. 8. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The interviews were conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media. Stanford University’s participation was made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a nonpartisan organization that conducts research on the health care system.

By the way, that this poll was conducted by the decidedly partisan Robert Johnson Foundation.

As we have previously noted, the Robert Johnson Foundation wants to ‘tax the rich’ to pay for nationalized healthcare. But they do make at least a show of supporting tort reform.

Which perhaps explains why the Associated Press published a poll that for once doesn’t help the Democrats.

Live by the biased poll takers, die by the biased poll takers.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Thursday, November 19th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

12 Responses to “AP Poll: Most Want Malpractice Reform”

  1. proreason

    “The AP poll found that 54 percent of Americans favor making it harder to sue doctors and hospitals for mistakes taking care of patients, while 32 percent are opposed. The rest are undecided or don’t know. ”

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the poll question on this one?

    I would speculate that most people are decidedly in favor of the ability to sue for certain “mistakes taking care of patients”. Like the ones that ruin lives and kill people because of incompetance or bad procedures. It’s the nonsense lawsuits that people object to. The legitimate ones actually improve medical care because they can create safer practices.

    I’ll bet that the wording of the question moved the needle from around 75 percent down to 54 percent.

    • pdsand

      Pro, the wording of this question is fairly straight forward:
      “In general, do you favor, oppose or neither favor nor oppose each of the following goals for changing the health care system? First/Next…
      Making it harder to sue doctors and hospitals for making mistakes taking care of patients”

      But check out the wording of the question that made a lot of news the other day saying that Americans “favor health care reform”

      “[HALF OF RESPONDENTS WERE ASKED THIS VERSION OF THE QUESTION:] Next I’d like to tell you about some new ways that health insurance could be offered to people who don’t have jobs or whose jobs don’t give them health insurance. The federal government could create a way for these people to choose to buy health insurance from the government instead of from insurance companies.
      The government would run the insurance plan and decide which medical care would be paid for and how much would be paid, like insurance companies do, which might mean people will have to pay some of the cost of their medical care themselves. The government insurance plan would be less expensive than other insurance plans because the government would not need to make a profit the way businesses do and because the government is able to negotiate lower prices with doctors and hospitals than insurance companies can. Would you favor the government offering people this insurance, oppose it, or neither favor nor oppose it?”

      “[THE OTHER HALF OF RESPONDENTS WERE ASKED THIS VERSION OF THE QUESTION:] Next I’d like to tell you about some new ways that health insurance could be offered to people who don’t have jobs or whose jobs don’t give them health insurance. The federal government could create a way for these people to choose to buy health insurance from the government instead of from insurance companies.
      The government insurance plan would be less expensive than other insurance plans, because the government would not need to make a profit the way businesses do and because the government is able to negotiate lower prices with doctors and hospitals than insurance companies can. Would you favor the government offering people this insurance, oppose it, or neither favor nor oppose it?”

      The wording of the first question resulted in 44% favor, 38% oppose.
      The second question resulted in 52% favor, 35% oppose.

    • proreason

      pd, thanks.

      Even the relatively innocuous wording is slanted. “harder to sue doctors and hospitals for making mistakes taking care of patients” implies that there really isn’t a problem. It’s just lawsuits about “mistakes”. But of course, many of the lawsuits aren’t about mistakes at all. They are extortion against the medical providers.

      And for the other examples you gave, neither question is even remotely fair. The question that elicited the negative response is still highly slanted toward a government option because: a) government insurance plans will be more expensive, not less, because bureaucracies are incompetant AND expensive. The government will simply get its money in taxes and hidden fees rather than transparent fees. b) price setting by the governent doesn’t affect costs at all. Either you get lesser service, or the costs shift to some other service. And when prices don’t reflect the service, there is trouble (which is one of the core issues right now. A government option will triple down on the root of the problem.)

    • pdsand

      Yeah, that question and poll result was their “money” result, and it’s obviously and badly biased when you look at the wording of the question. But that doesn’t matter. All we need to know is that Americans want hope and change.

    • I see this all the time with studies where I work. Word the question in the way you want it answered, and then present your results at a conference! TahDah! Instant valid opinion! Get federal money for your useless program!

  2. Chuckk

    I wish they had asked who was most hated, lawyers or politicians?

  3. pdsand

    “The poll suggests that patients see medical errors as fairly common. Twelve percent of those who’d been in the hospital in the past five years — and 10 percent of those who’d been to the doctor in that time period — said they thought there had been a mistake in their treatment. People were more forgiving of errors in the doctor’s office than in hospitals…”

    “If (people) knew about the frequency of medical errors, we believe they would have answered this question very differently,” said Linda Lipsen, a top lobbyist for the American Association for Justice, which represents lawyers.”

    It sounds like they know. And it sounds like they still want tort reform.

  4. pdsand

    The underlying poll as always is fascinating. Among other things,
    36% felt that there are no Americans who are underinsured
    49% felt that the government plan would make them pay more for their own health care
    46/46 split on whether government health care would allow more people to get preventive medicine
    42% thought health care reform would make the economy get worse
    57% think health care reform would result in illegal aliens getting more health care
    11% said you can never trust the government to do what’s right. It was not offered as an option.

    Check it out: http://surveys.ap.org/data/GfK.....v%2018.pdf

  5. pdsand

    I particularly love about half way through the results there’s a little block that says “(SOME QUESTIONS HELD FOR LATER RELEASE)”. I don’t really pay attention to polls so I don’t know if that’s standard, but it basically looks like the poll results have been broken up to be meted out over time for greater impact. It seems to me like they’re trying to appear as if they have conducted more than one poll. You know you announce poll results one day, then a few days later announce more poll results, then a few days later, another poll result. It would appear to the public that three polls have been conducted. And if you can spin the polls in a way that they appear pro-Obama, then it triples the effect of convincing independents and such that the majority of Americans are pro-Obama and pro-healthcare, because there have been three separate polls and the majority was always for healthcare reform. I have to say it worked on me, not that it would change my opinion, but I definitely thought that the poll results from the other day, and these poll results were from two separate polls.

  6. MKirschMD

    Of course, most folks support tort reform. We need it so desperately that only trial lawyers and Democrats deny it. The medical malpractice system abuses innocent physicians like me and wastes tens of billions of dollars on defensive medicine. Do patients want medical tests that they don’t need that could cause complications? Couldn’t we use these billions of dollars elsewhere? Is it fair that innocent doctors are ensnared in the system and can dangle there for months of years? See http://www.MDWhistleblower.blogspot.com under Legal Quality category.

    • proreason

      It’s fair if you are a congressman and you and your fellow crooks get 10 times as much campaign cash from lawyers as they do from industries that make “obscene” profits, like the Oil and Gas Industry.

      Gee doc, how ARE you bitter clinger doctors spending that mountain of cash you make from unnecessary amputations and tonsilectomies?

    • wardmama4

      It also helps that what – 50% of Congress now – are lawyers themselves. Probably very bad ones to be in Congress rather than out chasing abulances and stupid smokers.


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