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How Does Defensive Medicine Affect Health Care Costs?

OPB | May 28, 2014 12:06 p.m. | Updated: May 28, 2014 1:38 p.m.

Before pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby won the Oregon GOP primary the U.S. Senate, we spoke with her about a range of topics, including health care. Like others in her party, she opposes the Affordable Care Act. One of the issues she says Obamacare does not address is the cost of defensive medicine:

“One issue in this health care law that was not adequately addressed was tort reform. If you’re looking at different studies and reports you can find studies that say up to 20 percent of our health care costs is defensive medicine. And that’s because people will get on the internet and read and find out about a particular test they want, or whatever, and they’ll come to the doctor and say ‘Gee, I really want that MRI spectroscopy,’ or whatever. And then oftentimes people will order a test that is not necessarily something they would routinely order, but just out of concern for potential lawsuits.”

But other medical professionals disagree about those figures. We’ll speak with Charles Kilo, Chief Medical Officer at Oregon Health & Science University. He says that defensive medicine only accounts for about  1-3 percent of health care costs. But he says “over-utilization” of health care is having an enormous effect on the bottom line.

What questions do you have about defensive medicine or “over-utilization” of health care?

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