Affordable Care Act and Medical Malpractice

For years, millions of Americans were either covered by an insurance plan they couldn’t afford or had to forego insurance altogether, creating mountains of medical related debt and extensive health problems. Since the inception of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare or Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), in March of 2010, more and more Americans have been able to receive health care that is affordable. ACA’s highest priority is to “provide affordable, high quality healthcare for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.” While the ACA was being created, a one topic among many that was addressed was medical malpractice and the limitation of future damages for patients.

What Does Health Care Reform Mean for Health Care Providers?

ACA and medical malpracticeEvery American has the right to receive high quality care from any medical professional, whether a surgeon, a family practitioner, or a pharmacist and while a great majority of medical professionals make high quality care their highest priority, even the most conscientious of medical professionals are at risk of being sued in a medical malpractice claim. As a result, health care providers are required to be covered by malpractice insurance so that they are protected in the event of a malpractice case.

Many health care providers had hoped, with the health care reform, that there would be less need for coverage, limitations placed on damages, and making it more difficult to file a malpractice claim, yet there has been little change. Instead, according to section 10607 of the ACA (relating to malpractice reform), “The ACA authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award demonstration grants to states for the development, implementation, and evaluation of alternatives to current tort litigation.” Medical professionals, if facing a malpractice claim against them may be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank and face an uncertain future.

What About Patients?

While the health care reform is less than good news for health care providers, the changes (or lack thereof) means that patients will continued to be protected and have the right to receive compensation in the event of a malpractice incident. Unfortunately, there is concern that with the ACA in place, there may be an increase of medical malpractice incidents due to the multiple visits with various doctors and the increase of unnecessary procedures or care. According to Salvi, Schostok, & Pritchard, P.C., a patient may be at a greater risk for injury or death when a doctor performs a surgical error, delays a diagnosis, or makes a medication error and if a patient visits multiple doctors, he or she may be more at risk for being a victim of medical malpractice.

For instance if a patient visits one doctor and is then referred to another and then may see another, he or she may be getting less quality of care due to differing practice methods and even miscommunication or insufficient record keeping.

Additionally, in order to protect themselves, many doctors may continue to push defensive medicine, which can include anything from prescribing medications, ordering tests, and performing surgery. Not only are many of the treatments and procedures deemed unnecessary, but can actually create a patient injury or death.


Author: Matt Rhoney