Medical Malpractice ‘reform’ won’t fix health care or save money
side note: We have reported many different views of the health care debate. We try and present all sides that are based on facts so our readers can be better informed. This next article (disclaimer: The author does represent a trial lawyer association) from Madison.com is regarding legislation that is already in effect in numerous states and the impact it has had for the end user of health insurance: the consumer. Has it lowered costs for the average American in their home state? Has it increased access to care? These and other important questions need to be answered if we are to put in place a system that is sustainable.
As the debate over health care continues, a lot of misinformation is being thrown around in an effort to distract Americans and our elected leaders from the real issues: affordable, attainable and safe health care for all Americans.
One of the biggest issues for many opponents of health care reform is medical malpractice reform. This is a red herring.
Taking away patients’ rights does nothing to improve the quality of care in our health care system or produce cost savings. Forty-eight states, including Wisconsin, have already enacted medical malpractice reform measures, yet these legal restrictions have done nothing to improve our health care system, reduce costs or help people harmed by medical negligence. Tort “reform” is a myth perpetrated by insurance companies and others who are fearful of accountability for medical negligence, sparing no expense to scare the public in an effort to defeat any real health care reforms in the name of profit.
First, the cost of the malpractice system is minute – one-third of 1 percent in Wisconsin. The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that malpractice costs amount to “less than 2 percent of overall health care spending” and reductions in malpractice costs would have a “comparably small” effect on health insurance premiums.
Second, Wisconsin already has a cap on noneconomic damages. We ought to have some of the lowest costs for health care in the country, but the Government Accountability Office found that Wisconsin had eight of the top 10 U.S. cities with the highest physician fees and Milwaukee hospital charges were 63 percent above the national average.
Families USA found that since 2000, Wisconsin workers have been hit hard, with their share of health insurance premiums rising four times as fast as wages, climbing 49 percent while average wages have crept up by only 12.2 percent. The premium increases, as a multiple of worker wage growth, were higher in Wisconsin than Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota, states without non-economic damage caps at the time.