Morris Daily Herald (IL), October 22, 2009
The current debate on health care is the ideal time to look at medical malpractice reform, says an organization concerned with lawsuit abuse.
Travis Akin of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch was in Morris Tuesday, Oct. 20, talking about opportunities for malpractice reform as part of the debate on health care.
“In looking at health care costs at the federal level, any health care bill must add in the legal climate and costs,” he said.
“The health care industry is paralyzed by malpractice,” he added, “and the culture limits what is available to patients.”
“In Britain,” Akin points out, “doctors do e-mail consultations with patients, something they would not do in the United States. The consultations are not free, but they are cheaper than an office visit.”
Using e-mail consultations, doctors can cut the number of office visits and reduce the waiting time for those who do need to see the doctor, he explained.
Although it is being challenged in the Illinois Supreme Court, medical malpractice reform in Illinois has worked.
In 2005, the state legislature passed a series of reforms that included a cap on non-economic damages of $500,000 against doctors and $1 million against hospitals.
For the third year in a row, Akin said, the baseline premiums have remained the same, showing the law is working.
However, the reforms are being challenged and the Illinois Supreme Court could overturn portions or all of the law, he added.
Despite malpractice reform, Akin said, Harris Interactive still ranks Illinois 46th out of 50 states for legal fairness.
Pacific Research Institute ranks Illinois in the bottom four for tort costs and tort laws, he said. Tillinghast-Towers Perrin reported earlier in 2009 that Illinois residents pay $835 each year in higher prices due to excessive litigation.
Akin said electing quality judges is one factor in changing the climate in Illinois.
“When people vote for a judge, all they know is the party designation,” he said.
Akin said the state needs a form of merit selection to get the best candidates on the ballot, and only then should it allow the people to vote for judges.
“Straight merit selection is also open to abuse,” he points out.
Akin added, “In these difficult economic times, Illinois needs to be a magnet for jobs, not lawsuits.”
As part of his effort, Akin is asking mayors in the state to proclaim Oct. 19 to 23 as Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week.