Health care issues: Medical malpractice lawsuits

side note: Here’s the question at the heart of the healthcare debate: “What will lower the cost of healthcare for consumers?” Yes, medical malpractice insurance premiums are out of control, a burden on doctors and can threaten patient access to care. But if the heart of the debate is end consumer cost control, how much of an impact would federal tort reform have?

THE ISSUE: Would restrictions on medical malpractice lawsuits mean cheaper health insurance?

THE POLITICS: Republicans rally around the idea that the health system would save substantial money if limits were placed on frivolous lawsuits by patients or their families, and on the size of awards paid out when medical mistakes are made. Some in the GOP see “tort reform” as a magic bullet for runaway costs and have been pushing it for years. The proposal never goes far with most Democrats, who call it a red herring. This contest of ideas has as much to do with special interest groups as with the two parties. Trial lawyers, who oppose proposed limits on the lawsuits, are heavily connected with Democrats in their political contributions. Traditionally, doctors have given more to Republicans. Their leading trade group, the American Medical Association, counts controls on medical liability as a priority. President Barack Obama opposes what he calls “an artificial cap” on malpractice awards.

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