ACR to Obama: Reform efforts must include malpractice

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James Thrall, MD, chairman of the board of chancellors of the American College of Radiology (ACR), has sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging that he include medical malpractice reform in his efforts to change healthcare.

According to Thrall, the impetus for the letter was a recent American Board of Radiology Forum, in which an administration official, when asked why malpractice reform was not part of the current healthcare reform discussion, said that physicians had been quiet on the issue.

As a result, Thrall reiterated to Obama that since 1987 the ACR has been on record as supporting medical malpractice reform. “We believe medical malpractice reform is a substantial opportunity to enhance your objectives of cost containment in the healthcare delivery system by reducing the annual costs of defensive medicine,” wrote Thrall, who added that the American Medical Association (AMA) has estimated those costs to be anywhere from $84 million to $121 million annually.

The ACR chairman also said that “defensive medicine” not only adds enormous costs to the U.S. healthcare system, but also demoralizes healthcare providers and saps their productivity. He added that reform that ignores malpractice will leave providers “feeling that they have been asked to undergo major change on behalf of society while other stakeholders, such as the plaintiff bar, have gotten a free pass.

“All parties involved in the various aspects of the healthcare delivery system must be part of the solution and sacrifice when necessary,” Thrall wrote.