Health care reform requires malpractice reforms
Reforming health care is a tedious but necessary effort. Hard choices will have to be made and it’s evident that our Congress appears incapable of finding a solution to our health care debacle. But there was a meaningful health care cost-related bill that passed the House this session: medical malpractice tort reform.
Forbes reported in 2010 that medical malpractice costs in the U.S. are approximately $55.6 billion annually. The cost of doctors defending themselves in court has a trickle-down effect on the cost of health care. To solve part of the health care problem in the U.S., we need medical tort reform.
Another article from Forbes, “Reasons not to become a doctor,” listed “getting sued” as a major concern. We all agree that doctors who are reckless or unqualified should be held fully responsible. However, evidence suggests that a significant number of medical malpractice lawsuits are unjustified or frivolous.
In 2004, of all malpractice lawsuits brought against doctors, only 6 percent went to trial. Of those, 91 percent were won by the doctor/defendant. Many cases get thrown out of court. In addition, the threat of being sued causes many prospective doctors to avoid the profession all together.
The cost of a medical degree, mixed with the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance, coupled with the continued federal mandates, makes practicing medicine less and less appealing to the next generation.
Faced with a shortage of doctors, we need legislation that will stop stifling doctors with unnecessary paperwork, having to order unneeded tests, and defensive medical practices.
The House recently passed legislation that will lessen the burden of medical malpractice lawsuits. H.R. 1215 is a step in the right direction. The 218 members of Congress who voted to pass this meaningful legislation are to be commended.
This legislation passed by Congress, and awaiting Senate approval, will impose a federal three-year statute of limitations and limit non-economic damages to $250,000 for health care related lawsuits. The bill also limits the fees lawyers may charge in a health care lawsuit.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that passage of Protecting Access to Care Act 2017 will save federal taxpayers at least $50 billion over 10 years. It would also lower premiums paid by doctors for medical malpractice insurance by an average of 25 percent.
Reducing the cost of medical malpractice insurance would lower the overall cost of operating a physician’s office, thus driving down medical costs that get passed to the patient.
President Trump and his administration encouraged Congress to pass this reform and to enact the other medical malpractice reform proposals that are contained in the president’s budget.
Not everyone likes the idea of limiting the fees that lawyers can charge in health care related cases. For obvious reasons, lawyers don’t like it. Opponents feel that the new law would discourage lawyers from taking on medical malpractice cases, since there would be a cap on what the law firm could earn.
No law firm should make an inordinate amount of money off a patient’s injury. Reasonable limits should exist. Proponents of this legislation feel this is one step in the right direction to begin driving down health care costs nationwide.
Sadly, there were several Republican members of Congress who did not share President Trump’s vision. A total of 19 Republicans cast “no” votes to the Protecting Access to Care Act 2017. Wouldn’t you know that two-thirds of those Republicans who voted “no” are attorneys?