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Health care is a hot button issue in American politics. It seems that someone cannot get elected to any position in the federal government without having a strong stance on health care reform. On the state level, a perennial platform issue is medical malpractice damage caps, or what has euphemistically been called “tort reform.” Politicians from the right side of the aisle often argue that in order to drive down health care costs, keep malpractice insurance premiums low, and prevent talented doctors from fleeing to states where it is allegedly cheaper to practice, medical malpractice damages should be capped at a certain amount. Most states have a statute in place that puts an upper limit on the amount an injured party can recover in non-economic damages. While the goal of this kind of statute is noble, the measures to achieve the goal are based on false information. Further, the problem that malpractice suits attempt to solve is much bigger than most people realize.
Malpractice Payouts an Insignificant Portion of Health Care Cost
Those in support of reforming medical malpractice laws to cap damages payouts claim that such a measure will help to drive down the costs of health care. The truth of the matter, however, is that money paid out because of settlements or jury verdicts in medical malpractice cases represents a paltry percentage of the overall health costs in the US today.
In the most recent study on medical malpractice conducted by citizen’s advocacy group Public Citizen, payouts for malpractice cases made up a mere .11 percent of the total cost in 2012. And, as reported by New Hampshire Union Leader columnist Chuck Douglas, it increased in 2012 to .12 percent. Numbers this small do not make a statistically significant difference in the amount spent on health care, and thus cannot be blamed for the high health care costs in this country.
Doctors and Other Health Professionals Have Powerful Lobbies
Why, then, is there a massive push by tort reform advocates to place caps on damages in malpractice cases? The answer is quite simple: those who are susceptible to malpractice suits have the resources to fund candidates for public office that will trumpet dubious economic statistics to drive down the cost of being a doctor. If there is a cap on damages, the doctors are protected, and the companies that insure the doctors against malpractice are also protected, meaning that the victim of the malpractice must be happy with a smaller award.
Malpractice Cases are Underreported
The Public Citizen report also had another statistic that should spur concern over largely unnecessary and unfair damages cap legislation. In 2012, a majority, or 60 percent, of the payments made on behalf of doctors in malpractice suits were for severe injuries, including death. More shocking is the conclusion that a majority of malpractice injuries are not reported and not litigated.
Contact Willens Law Offices to Receive a Free Consultation from an Experienced Attorney
To discuss your personal injury, medical malpractice, car accident or wrongful death case, call our Chicago Personal Injury Attorneys today at (312) 957-4166 to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. Initially, we will listen to you and offer you guidance. We see this initial FREE consultation not only as a way for us to get to know you, but also for you to better understand who we are and what we can do, so you can feel comfortable making the decision as to which law firm to hire.