President Obama's Medical Malpractice Proposal Will Hurt Patients and Dump More Costs On Taxpayers

side note: The morning after President Obama’s healthcare reform speech, the trial lawyers released this statement in response to his acknowledgement of tort reform possibilities.

Statement by Joanne Doroshow, Executive Director, Center for Justice & Democracy, on President Obama’s medical malpractice proposal:

The Center for Justice & Democracy strongly opposes President Obama’s plan to implement Bush Administration measures to limit the legal rights of severely injured patients, which has become part of the health care discussion apparently as a bargaining chip to reduce Republican opposition to much needed health care reform.

Any scheme that places undue burdens on injured patients or requires that cases be heard in informal settings tilt the legal playing field heavily in favor of insurance companies that represent health care providers and are fundamentally unfair.

Proposals that ends up shielding unsafe hospitals or grossly negligent doctors from accountability by intruding upon the legal system are terrible public policy. Medical errors are at epidemic levels and this proposal will not only fail to fully compensate catastrophically injured patients, but also will undermine restraints the civil justice system currently imposes on dangerous misconduct. Reducing legal accountability will lead to more errors and system costs.

Moreover, such provisions would dump even more costs on taxpayers. They would not eliminate death and injuries but merely shift costs of caring for malpractice victims from perpetrators of malpractice to hard-pressed state Medicaid systems, for which state and federal taxpayers share the costs.

The arguments used to support liability restrictions are unfounded. Indeed, according to an analysis of the insurance industry’s own data by Americans for Insurance Reform, medical malpractice insurance claims and premiums have both been trending downward for years. Premiums and claims are each less than one percent of health care costs.

Clearly, we need to look for ways to insure everyone while improving the quality of health care in our country by reducing preventable medical errors. The best way to reduce malpractice deaths, injuries, claims and lawsuits is to reduce medical malpractice.

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