Tort Reform a Point of Bipartisan Agreement
Raleigh, N.C. – The debate about health care reform continues as President Obama addresses a joint session of Congress last night to once again attempt to explain the details of his health care plan.
At one point in his speech, the President raised the issue of tort reform saying, “I don’t believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I’ve talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues. It’s a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.” (“Obama Promises Tort Reform,” The Washington Independent, 9/10/09)
According to the Pacific Research Institute, health insurance premiums for consumers have dropped by an average of 16 percent in those states that have adopted tort reform. (“A swift re-tort: How to fight lawsuit abuse,” Washington Examiner, 5/10/09) Additionally, a US Department of Health and Human Services report found that states with malpractice damage caps have around 12 percent more physicians per capita than states without damage caps. (“Study Links Higher Physician Supply to Limits on Non-Economic Damages,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 7/7/03)
Over the years, North Carolina Republicans have repeatedly offered legislation to address tort reform and medical malpractice liability. During the last session of the General Assembly, Sen. Stan Bingham (R-Davidson) introduced a bill (S979 ) to limit the amount of damages that may be awarded in civil actions against health care providers for health care liability claims. Sen. David Rouzer (R-Johnston) also offered several bills (S901, S902, S903, S904) directed at reforming the medical malpractice system. The goal of tort reform and malpractice reform is to discourage frivolous lawsuits that drive up the cost of health care for North Carolina families. Each of these bills was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary 1 where they never received a hearing.
Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said, “In the midst of the national debate on health care, it can be easy to overlook the fact that government action in the health care field will have real and lasting effects on North Carolina’s families. While there may be disagreement about goals and the specifics of plans and proposals, State Senate Republicans have been actively engaged in advancing proposals to reform health care in North Carolina with the goal of lowering costs and providing better coverage. Unfortunately, legislative Democrats have refused to advance tort reform legislation and have ignored Republican ideas. Given the current debate, the people of our state will be better served when North Carolina’s legislative Democrats begin putting the interests of the people ahead of the interests of trial lawyers and special interests when it comes to tort reform.”