Trial Lawyer Expects Medical Malpractice Claims to Increase Under Obamacare

By Jon Street | July 13, 2012 | 10:45am EDT

President Obama signs the Democrats’ health care bill into law in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday, March 23, 2010. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

( - A New York-based law firm predicts that Obamacare will increase the number of medical malpractice claims, as physicians are flooded with millions of previously uninsured patients.

James A. Morris, Jr., a plaintiffs' attorney with a mass-tort and personal-injury litigation law firm in New York, said he believes that many doctors and hospitals are ill-prepared for the increased caseload stemming from an estimated 20 million to 40 million uninsured Americans who soon will gain coverage.

"I think there's no question that medical errors will happen on a more frequent basis once the Affordable Care Act takes full effect in either 2014 or 2015 and those individuals and families who were previously uninsured sign up for coverage," said Morris in a news release. "The more people you have accessing medical care, the greater the potential incidence of medical mistakes in which injuries or death occur," he added.

But a spokesperson for the American Medical Association, which supported the Democrats' health care law, told there is no evidence to suggest that government-mandated insurance coverage will cause more medical liability claims.

“The [Affordable Care Act] does not create additional patients,” the spokesperson said on background. “The law provides increased health insurance coverage for patients who did not have it before. These patients were already in the health care system,” the AMA spokesperson said.

The American Medical Association, in a news release, said the expanded health care coverage upheld by the Supreme Court will allow patients to see their doctors earlier rather than waiting for treatment until they are sicker and care is more expensive.

It also “simplifies administrative burdens, including streamlining insurance claims, so physicians and their staff can spend more time with patients and less time on paperwork,” said AMA President Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD.

But according to trial lawyer Morris, "most medical mistakes in hospitals are due to the unavailability of resources or to physicians and staff being so overworked that they haven't the time necessary to fully investigate a patient's prior medical history, co-morbidities and drug use before procedures are performed."

He suggested that one way healthcare providers could reduce the risk of lawsuits is by expanding the size of their staffs and keeping their skills current.

Obamacare will "increase demand for more doctors, nurses and allied-health practitioners," Morris said. "For that reason, schools of medicine and nursing should strive to enroll more students, while hospitals should more aggressively recruit licensed and fully trained practitioners from both inside and outside the U.S."

For now, injured patients and their families have little alternative but to turn to the courts for help, Morris said.

"Medical-malpractice attorneys act as a watchdog over the medical profession," he said.

Under Obamacare, the Obama administration is authorized to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to address an anticipated shortage of primary care doctors.

In fact, three months after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, his Health and Human Services Department announced it would spend $250 million “to increase the number of health care providers and strengthen the primary care workforce.”

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