While it's hardly the only cause of out-of-control health care costs, absurd legal judgments are right up there, along with pointless layers of administrative bureaucracy. You've probably read articles by plaintiff's lawyers suggesting that this was a myth.
It's no myth. I grant you that if one considers only the value of the judgments themselves (as all the apologists do), the factor is not terribly large. But, that is a foolish and misleading analysis.
The real cost derives from the countless extra tests ordered on virtually every single patient, done solely to protect against future litigation. A hidden cost—and one that no doubt inflicts harm on many patients—is the tendency toward conventional therapies, as the risks inherent of trying something innovative are more legal than medical.
My latest HND piece describes an incandescently preposterous judgment in California, against a well-regarded nursing home operator, in which absolutely no patient harm was even alleged. The stars were definitely aligned for the ambulance chasers in this one.
A clueless jury, led by a more clueless judge put the worst possible bias on every aspect of the proceedings. And there was also a grotesquely inflated class, likely comprised of a majority of members who had no problem with Skilled Healthcare, and didn't even know that they were included.
Read the piece, and weep for the future of health care.