Tort Reform

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.

First,

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

total.

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.

Still,

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

moderate injuries.

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.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

Scroll to Top