Tort reform is a popular call-to-action when it comes to
healthcare legislation. In general tort reform in the healthcare arena
refers to reducing lawsuits or damages related to medical malpractice.
Several states have enacted tort reform. No one argues that frivolous
lawsuits need to be eliminated; rather the debate revolves around how
much attention needs to be devoted to this issue.
consider there are costs associated with the litigation process, the
awarded damages, and “defensive medicine,” which refers to the
treatments and procedures that healthcare professionals provide, some
say unnecessarily, to avoid lawsuits. The cost estimates vary widely.
There are also several approaches to tort reform, including a cap on
noneconomic damages, cap on attorneys fees, modification or elimination
of joint-and-several liability, revisions to the statute of limitations
and cap [more]on punitive damages. These are some of the big ones.
People who consider themselves in favor of tort reform may like one or
two ideas and reject the others.
Take for example, capping
awards on medical malpractice lawsuits. According to the Pacific
Research Institute report called Tort Law Tally, capping awards cuts
losses an average of 39 percent and annual insurance premiums by 13
percent. Advocates also say that states with caps attract more
physicians. However, other economists say liability awards are not what
is driving premiums and point to a declining rate of lawsuits relative
to numbers of injuries and caps on awards in many states. One
Harv[more]ard University economist estimates that the cost of jury
awards are about $12 per person in the U.S. — about $3.6 billion
Some policy experts think tort reform itself is a red
herring. A Congressional Budget Office report found that, at most, tort
liability made up less than one-half of one percent of health care
costs. Other reports say that malpractice lawsuits make up one to two
percent of the United States annual spending. In addition, some health
economists contend that some defensive medicine is a good thing.
even those economists who call tort reform a “distraction” in the
healthcare debate admit the system is far from perfect. Tom Barker,
author of the book “The Medical Malpractice Myth,” has said if people
are serious about tort reform, they should improve compensation for
What do you think? Should tort reform be
included in a healthcare bill and if so, in what form? icyou wants to
hear your opinion. For icyou, Im Rebecca Fox.