I found this blog post by Ray Mullman and include it here as a topic of current relevance given the political climate of our country in 2017.
Replace Obamacare with Tort Reform?
By Ray Mullman on January 10, 2017 Posted in Tort Reform
How does taking away rights of victims of medical malpractice increase insurance coverage or the quality of care provided? Medical errors claim more than 250,000 lives annually, researchers estimated this year. That would make errors, which include cases of medical malpractice and negligence, the nation’s third-leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer.According to researchers, industry experts, and undisputed facts, the nation’s medical malpractice insurance industry is running smoothly and has not been in crisis for decades.
Doctors are paying less for malpractice insurance than they did in 2001 — even without adjusting for inflation, according to the Doctors Company, one of the nation’s largest malpractice insurers. And the rate of claims has dropped by half since 2003.
“It’s a wonderful time for doctors looking for coverage, and it’s never been better for insurers,” said Michael Matray, editor of Medical Liability Monitor, a trade publication.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the nation’s top health official, are vowing to make tort reform a key part of their replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act. Consumer advocates say the GOP political agenda isn’t addressing the bigger goal of reducing overall patient harm. Republicans are going too far in reducing consumer access to the justice system and fair compensation for medical mistakes.
“What strikes me about these current proposals is that they really represent the agenda of medical professionals, which is all about limiting liability,” said Michelle Mello, a Stanford University law professor and health researcher. “To take any malpractice reform seriously, it has to offer something to improve the situation of patients and lead to safer outcomes.” Price’s proposals do neither.
Researchers caution that caps do not keep premiums down, saying economic cycles and insurers’ investment returns are most significant factors. And they note that courts have struck down caps in some states as ineffective or unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, plaintiffs’ lawyers say damage caps make them reluctant to take on cases, given the money often required for trial preparation and expert witnesses qualified to discuss medical practice. Many victims receive no compensation when arbitrary caps on damages are in place.
Caps on noneconomic damages for “pain and suffering” can also disproportionately hurt women and the elderly. They more often cannot get significant economic damages, which are calculated differently than pain and suffering damages, because they are not big wage earners.