March 11, 2013

New Kickstarter Push for Medical Errors Documentary

by Levin & Perconti

“Kickstarter” is the popular crowdfunding site where individuals and organizations make calls for donations and support for various endeavors. The projects are widespread, often related to art, history, humanitarian issues, political proposals and more. For example, one Kickstarter project that recently made a call for support is that of a documentary focusing on the prevalence of medical errors and the need to act to tackle the problem. The Kickstarter funding page can be viewed here. On the page you can view a trailer for the project. The organizers have a goal of raising $25,000 for the endeavor. Right now a total of seventy seven backers have provided well over $8,000 toward that ultimate total.

The Wall of Silence
The project is referred to as “Breaking the Wall of Silence,” with a one sentence summary that states: “A film about the quest to break through healthcare's wall of silence surrounding medical errors in order to improve patient safety.”

In describing the value of the project and the need to increase awareness of medical mistakes, the documentary will explore several cases of tragic loss caused by medical malpractice. For example, one mother involved in the project lost her son as a result of surgical complications. It only later came out that the brain surgery in question was not even needed and the doctor who performed it had been sued for malpractice in another state. In another case, surgical complications were completely ignored as a teenager spent thirty hours bleeding to death while caregivers ignored signs that something was wrong.

Explaining the Problem
We often reiterate the widespread problem of medical errors which continue to affect tens of thousands of medical patients each and every year throughout the country. Hopefully projects like this one are able to get off the ground and explain the problem to an even larger audience.

One of the goals of this documentary is to show that much more can be done to limit the serious injuries and deaths caused by medical errors. The estimated 100,000 annual fatal accidents are not necessarily just an unpreventable by product of a complex system. Instead, there is much that can be done to systematically address the problems, force change, and ultimately save lives. But those steps are simply not being taken. In the past, other industries (like aviation) enacted widespread safeguards to minimize accidental harm; there is little good reason that the medical community is not doing the same.

Doctors Speaking Out
The makers of the documentary note that it is critical for those within the medical community to stand up and speak out about the need to make safety changes. Some are doing just that and may be included in the film. For example, one doctor singled out is leading a patient safety initiative that is working to cull experiences from across the country to compile best practices which can be followed in any setting to systematically limit patient harm from preventable errors.

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October 26, 2012

Comprehensive New Report: Economics and Medical Errors

by Levin & Perconti

A recent report published in the Journal of HealthCare Finance touched on a subject of obvious importance to our legal team: the intersection of economics and medical errors. In particular, the comprehensive research sought to examine the actual financial toll that healthcare quality problems take on national budgets. The full report can be found here.

Our med mal attorneys frequently push back against all of the false claims made about the connection between the civil justice system and healthcare costs. The obvious reality is that a focus on the healthcare system itself is required to truly tackle the rising healthcare financial burden. In particular, the wasted funds required as a result of medical errors is a good starting point to understand the changing priorities that are needed to truly address the human and monetary losses accrued as a result of inadequate medical quality.

The Economics of Medical Errors Study
The latest study lays out the sad reality. Some estimates suggst that as many as 200,000 Americans are killed annually as a result of preventable medical errors and hospital acquired infections. The direct costs of those erorrs is significant, totaling nearly $20 billion each and every year. Those costs mostly refer to the those things directly related to the medical quality problems, like prescription drugs, ancillary support, inpatient and outpatient medical care, and more. On top of that, the figure includes costs for things like lost work productivity and disability claims.

But the reality is that the $20 billion figure may be far too low. After all, how does one fully account for the full financial consequences of the hundreds of thousands of deaths? The article points to another study which tried to more fully recognize the overall financial impact of preventable medical errors. That effort used "quality-adjusted life years" figures to capture the overal financial loss. What figure did they reach? A staggering $1 trillion annually may be lost because of medical negligence and preventable problems throughout our national healthcare industry.

Those figures should not be ignored.

The bottom line argument made by the authors of this study is that better care is actually more financially efficient care. This runs counter to natural perceptions when compared to other markets. One assumes that higher quality products and services are naturally going to be more expensive. In that way, there might always be a trade-off between quality and costs. But the healthcare world does not work like that. And considering lives are on the line, there is simply never a reason to sacrifice quality.

Fortunately, not only should one never sacrifice quality, but quality and cost are related. Better care is less expensive. The goal, according to the study's authors is "the right care, at the right time, every time." Right now we are falling far short of that goal. As a result more patients are hurt and we are losing billions and billions of dollars that might be saved. The stakes are high and therefore much more focus needs to be on improving the quality of care. Things like tort reform are nothing more than a completely useless distractions from the real issues.

Not to be too pessimistic, the authors suggest that there are positive signs of change in the healthcare industry. Many insiders may finally be prioritizing real reforms seeking to address this quality issue. While the changes might be motivated by finances, it will still save lives along the way--something that all of us understand is necessary and welcome.

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September 22, 2012

How Do We Actually Control Medical Malpractice Insurance Rates?

by Levin & Perconti

As outlined yesterday, medical malpractice insurance premiums for doctors are not affected by tort reform laws. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is nothing to be done to lower them. In fact, many argue that insurance companies need to be reigned in with stricter rules to ensure that they are not bilking those who need their services. In fact, Illinois is often used as an example of the effects of insurance reform.

Illinois, Medical Malpractice, & Insurance Reform
The Center for Justice & Democracy discussed in its med mal briefing book how the Illinois case informs the reality of insurance reform.

In 2005 the General Assembly enacted a damage cap on non-economic injuries ($500,000 for doctors and $1 million for hospitals). The same legislation that enacted the caps included provisions for strong insurance reform. In 2010 the state Supreme Court struck down the damage caps as unconstitutional. However, in so doing, the insurance reform law was also struck down.

In the five years that the law existed, even many insurance lawyers admitted that it did not affect settlements or insurance rates. However, the insurance reform part of the law was shown to have very real effects. The Illinois Division of Insurance announced in 2006, shortly after the law took effect, that medical malpractice premium coverage for one malpractice insurer would be expanded while premiums would be cut at the same time (by 30%). The Division explained exactly why this change took place, and it wasn’t because of damage caps. Instead, it was because of the new insurance reform law that required the med mal insurance providers release data on how their rates were set. In other words, once the industry had to be more forthright and honest about their pricing, the competitive nature of the marketplace worked to set more reasonable rates.

A look at the overall data in our state shows the clear benefit of the law. The overall premiums paid decreased by almost $40 million each year for the first three years. More companies also entered the marketplace to provide the insurance—from 14 in 2005 to 19 in 2008.

Insurance Reform is Needed
Our own example makes clear that insurance reform works. Unfortunately, instead of pursuing real reform that will address possible premium problems, much more focus is on taking away the legal rights of medical patients. Not only is it unconstitutional to take away those legal rights, it simply ineffectual. Limiting the ability of a judge or a jury to make a determination in a case does nothing but ensure those hurt are not made whole and those responsible are not held accountable.

But it is even worse than that. Those hurt by medical negligence who do not receive full damages often end up receiving support from public coffers instead. It is important to shift the focus away from misguided claims about “windfall” judgments and instead on the reality that failure to demand full responsibility is ultimately a loss for the public. When public officials, lobbyists, and other activists try to steer the discussion toward these misguided arguments, we need to stand our ground with the facts.

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September 10, 2012

Illinois Doctors Rake in Millions from Medicaid

by Levin & Perconti

Money and medical care--a pairing that at once seems dangerous and unnecessary. But of course finances are intimately entwined with the health care that all of us receive when we need it. As the recent debates over national health care policy makes plain, community members are still deeply divided over the best course to take to ensure that all of the wheels in the operation--from doctors and drug manufacturers to insurance consumers and patients--are balanced to provide the best care to the most people at the lowest cost.

Unfortunately, the civil justice system is often unfairly added to the mix. That’s because there remains a mistaken notion (advanced by unsavory politics) that allowing fair access to the civil justice system following medical malpractice somehow greatly increases the cost of care. Time and again this has been proven obviously untrue. There very well are issues about paying for the care that we all need--but an actual solution is not found in curtailing the legal rights of former patients.

Medicaid & Money
Instead, a more obvious solution must involve restructuring the main systems that provide the care. Medical treatments must be made based solely on the patient need and not at all on the financial incentives for the providers (or the insurers). We have a long way to go before we reach that point, however.

Take as an example a recent story in Crain’s Chicago Business on “Medicaid Millionaire Doctors.” The article explains how a select few doctors in Illinois were able to rake in at least $1 million working with Medicaid patients. Medicaid is the joint state and federal program that provides support for the poor and disabled. There are constantly complaints for medical care providers about the low reimbursement rates provided by Medicaid. Many argue that doctors and hospitals simply cannot provide the service necessary based on those reimbursement rates. Medical errors and low quality care is also often claimed to be caused by problems with the money paid by the public sources for this care.

Yet, at least ten doctors in Illinois were able to make millions using Medicaid reimbursements. How? According to the report, the secret is in running high-volume practices. Some doctors then receive cuts for services performed by others “under their supervision.” In this way the professionals can earn more than what they can provide on their own.

For example, one doctor in Chicago--a pathologist--was able to make nearly $6 million in one year alone. Another medical professional, a urologist, received almost $5 million. Yet, that doctor is currently under an investigation by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services for potential problems in their billing practices.

No one is begrudging these doctors--or any professionals--their financial success. However, it is crucial when making tough decisions about these health care programs and patient safety initiatives that a fair and accurate picture be painted about the state of money and medicine in our state. It is unacceptable for disingenuous claims about financial trouble be used to take coverage away from those in needs and legal rights from those harmed.

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October 12, 2010

Chicago Doctors to Study Ways to Reduce Medical Malpractice

by Levin & Perconti

American Medical News is reporting on encouraging new developments in the battle to reduce medical errors by doctors and hospitals. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers have worked for decades to raise awareness of medical mistakes that should have been prevented. By assisting the patient victims and their families, we strive to ensure that the problems receive redress and medical professionals are encouraged to improve the quality of their care by ensuring that their errors are recognized.

Local Illinois doctors are now taking another step which may help to raise awareness of patient safety in another way. The University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago is planning to work on a three-year project to help evaluate whether the center’s medical error model (known as the “seven pillars” approach) is appropriate for other hospitals. Advocates for this type of approach explained that the model has allowed the identification of 56 cases of medical harm with 55 of them settled out of court.

Involved doctors hope that the effort will ultimately improve patient safety in more area locations, sharing, “We want to take what we’ve been doing for the last few years and try to roll it out to nine other hospitals in the Chicago area.”

Specifically, the project will examine the new model’s effect on the overall number and severity of medical errors, the reductions in the errors, and their compensation costs. Within 18 months the project is planned to expand to four local hospitals, but results will not be ready for publication for about two years.

The new project is being funded through a federal grant, but two local doctors involved in the project are adding to the effort with personal funds. Two UIC doctors pledged $100,000 to help share a new documentary that explains the death of a young teen after a preventable medical error. It shares the toll that these errors have on patients and their families.

Please Click Here to read more about this important step in improving medical care at local hospitals.

September 30, 2010

Most Medical Errors Go Unreported

by Levin & Perconti

Many of our posts to this blog involve highlighting examples of medical malpractice. In that way we hope to raise awareness of the types of errors that occur, the prevalence of the problem, and the ways in which victims are able to seek redress for their suffering. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti also strive to encourage those who have fallen victim to take steps to report their concerns. It is only that way that we can truly send a message to hospitals and other medical professionals about the prevalence of medical errors and the urgent need to work toward their elimination.

A new story by Heart Newspapers affirms that need of better reporting of medical errors. After discussing the tragic death of a 47-year old man following a medication error, the story explains that the vast majority of hospitals in the area are still failing to properly report their medical errors. Not all hospitals are required to report their errors specifically. Even those that do report them, however, likely only include a fraction of the mistakes that actually take place.

One of the key problems of underreporting is the ineffective manner in which reporting systems are created. Generally, strange rules determine whether a certain mistake does or does not count as one which must be documented in the report. “Categories” are created that must be reported, and if an error does not fall into one of those specific categories, there is no reporting—regardless of whether the problem was just as much a preventable mistakes as others.

The improper reporting is a problem, because experts have consistently shown that reporting and analysis leads to corrective measures being taken and future lives being saved. For example, the case highlighted in the story explains how failure to follow medication protocols led to the death of the 47-year old man. However, essentially through “loopholes” in the categories, that death was never reported as a mistake. Consequently, that particular hospital is still able to claim that is has not had a single medical error in the last four years. It is a fictitious designation that misleads future patients and obscures that fact that serious reform needs to be undertaken.

September 19, 2010

Medical Mistakes Continue to Affect Patients Across the Country

by Levin & Perconti

With healthcare reform becoming the major legislative issue of the last year, it is surprising that more discussion has taken place regarding the prevention of medical errors that affect countless innocent patients each year.

The Times Union noticed the surprisingly inadequate steps taken to tackle the problem. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement found that nearly 200,000 people die each year from hospital mistakes that could be prevented and infections acquired while at hospitals. That staggering total suggests that hundreds of deaths every day could be prevented if only steps were taken to safeguard against these errors.

An initial step in tackling the crisis of medical errors involves collecting accurate data on the scope of the problem. However, Congress has yet again failed to require reporting of medical errors. Because of that, the problem remains hidden in the background of healthcare debates.

Many patients’ right advocates are encouraged that the new chief of Medicare and Medicaid services may try to once again put patient safety in the public consciousness. Dr. Donald Berwick had previous spent thirty years studying patient safety and working on ways to improve the quality of care given across the country.

His supporters claim that he “is passionate about safety and quality, and is a brilliant leader. He knows how to articulate that passion and that purpose behind health care like no one I’ve ever heard.”

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti are well aware of the magnitude of the problem of medical mistakes. In our decades of collective experience our attorneys have been involved with a multitude of cases where medical professionals provided inadequate care causing the deaths of their patients. We will continue to fight for the rights of the patients and their families who have had their lives destroyed by the very people whom they thought would provide them with the expert care they deserved.

Please Click Here to read more about the inadequate reporting of errors and the possible legislative actions to rectify it.

September 16, 2010

Doctor Spends Life Exposing Underperforming Hospitals

by Levin & Perconti

Forbes recently profiled an amazing doctor who has spent his career working to improve medical care across the country. For two decades Dr. Harlan Kumholz has sought to measure the real- world effect of hospital care to better understand what parts of medical service are being ignored, what parts are working, and the processes that fail.

At first, Dr. Kumholz received very little support from the medical community. But his techniques were slowly perfected and his results were hard to ignore. For example, in 2004 he proved that two-third of all heart attack patients were not getting angioplasties within 90 minutes of arriving at the hospital as recommended. Those delays in providing the procedure—which reopens clogged arteries with a balloon tipped catheter—led to increase death from heart attacks.
The doctor was able to show that the delay in care was not the fault of ambulance time, but instead caused by delays in the time when the patient was actually in the hospital.

He also was able to show that many heart-failure patients are given inadequate care which leads them to becoming “revolving door” patients—they are forced to head back to the hospitals very shortly after leaving. In other work he has shown that 25% of heart patients are never given basic aspirin when they need it and that beta blockers were never prescribed to 50% of the patients who should have gotten them.

His program is now used by the federal government’s Medicare program to compare hospitals. Dr. Kumholz has developed skills to put systems in place that ask the right questions and use the appropriate measurements to get to the root of medical quality information. This has all been a revolution for the medical profession, which has been slow to use data-driven quality measurement to improve care.

Dr. Kumholz’s research verifies what our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti have witnessed in our work with hundreds of victims of medical errors. Most doctors are highly capable experts who save lives every day, but some are not. Those that fall below standards much be made to improve the quality of their care so that more victims do not suffer from their medical mistakes.

March 18, 2010

Chicago, Illinois Medical Malpractice Attorneys Urge Congress to Keep Tort Reform Out of Healthcare Reform

by Levin & Perconti

According to the Washington Post, Democrats in Congress released the final version of the proposed healthcare legislation that the House is set to vote on this Sunday. President Obama is now working to secure enough votes to pass this legislation in Congress. Our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers were pleased to see that increased funding for medical malpractice reform initiatives was not included in the final version of the bill. Republicans have long pushed for medical malpractice reform, and the idea of increased spending on these initiatives was brought up again at the healthcare summit that took place last month.

Despite research that clearly shows that medical malpractice litigation does not drive up the cost of healthcare, proponents of tort reform still fight to limit the rights of patients who are injured or killed as a result of medical negligence. Healthcare reform should focus on ensuring that everyone has access to quality and affordable care, not on limiting patients' rights. We must also focus on decreasing the number of medical mistakes from happening in the first place.

Until a final bill is passed, it is important to remain vocal about this issue. We encourage readers to contact their representatives to let them know that medical malpractice reform is not the answer, and that you do not support any measures to limit patients rights. Click on the link to contact your U.S. representative regarding medical malpractice reform.

March 12, 2010

Patient Safety Awareness Week leads us to Remember Injured Patients

by Levin & Perconti

Anthony Tarricone, President of the American Association for Justice, published a piece in the Huffington Post reminding the public to remember those who have fallen victim to medical error. This week is Patient Safety Awareness Week, which is an annual national education and awareness campaign. This year it is especially important because it falls in the midst of the recent health care debate. As those in Congress debate medical malpractice they must remember the 98,000 patients that die annually as a result of preventable medical error. Put a different way, if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified medical errors as a category it would be the sixth leading cause of death in America.

Many Republicans have focused on the idea of tort reform as one of the major solutions to America’s health care problems. However, there has been a great deal of evidence that shows changing tort law would do nothing to lower costs or cover the uninsured. It should also be noted that the 98,000 people figure only includes those who died, and not those who were seriously injured by medical error. These extra numbers include a woman who had to have four amputations after a routine kidney stone surgery. The doctors had sent her home with no treatment and her kidney blockage caused a full body infection. This is just one of the many victims of medical error. While health reform is needed, it cannot be at the expense of victims. Contact your local Congressman and voice your support for patient awareness. To read more from the AAJ’s President’s post, please click the link.

March 8, 2010

Tort Reform Cures Few of Our Nation’s Health Care Ailments

by Levin & Perconti

The Republicans have come up with many ways to damage health care debate. They include letting families and business buy health insurance across state lines which would bring extra problems to the health care industry. However the GOP’s worst idea, and yet the one that might actually be implemented, is limiting a victim’s ability to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. This idea, known as “tort reform,” has gained momentum with both President Obama and other Democrats.

The American Prospect reported that Republicans argue that by capping medical malpractice damages, doctors will practice less defensive medicine thus driving down health insurance costs. Yet if you examine states that do cap non-economic damages, you will see that there has not been a decrease in health care spending. In fact, per-patient health-care spending in the state of Texas has actually increased at a rate that is twice the national average. This happened after Texas decided to cap non-economic damages at $250,000.

Another argument posed by Republicans is that tort reform will decrease the amount of frivolous lawsuits. Yet the key question is whether there are that many frivolous lawsuits to begin with. Last year the CBO determined that 181,000 severe injuries or deaths were caused by medical error. Yet only 17 percent of those victims actually filed a medical malpractice lawsuit. That means that only one out of every six patients who are victims of medical malpractice actually files a lawsuit. Maybe health care reform should focus more on diminishing the number of victims injured by medical malpractice instead of looking to diminish the number of lawsuits. To learn more about tort reform, please click the link.

March 4, 2010

Health Care Debates Continue to Include Medical Malpractice

by Levin & Perconti

The American Association for Justice has spoken out about the constant struggle for health care reform. Currently the House of Representatives is debating whether or not to vote on the Senate passed health care bill. This means that if the House has a majority vote the Senate bill will become a law. The current version of the Senate bill allows for demonstration projects, but provides an absolute opt out clause for plaintiffs at any time. The AAJ finds demonstration objectionable but believes that the opt-out provision for all plaintiffs minimizes their concern.

In a recent letter to Congress, the President signaled openness to appropriating $50 million for additional medical malpractice projects, which would include health courts. This blog recently spoke to the dangers of implementing health courts. Most importantly these courts would take away a patient’s right to a jury trial, which is in direct opposition to the constitution. The AAJ believes that health courts open up the possibility of biased, one-sided proceedings, deny people their right to trial by jury, and serve as another expensive insurance company bureaucracy. Fortunately, the Senate language contains an opt-out provision which would allow victims to have the option of a civil jury trial. Please contact your Congressmen and voice your opposition for health courts.

Many people who support patient’s rights have been using twitter to voice their thoughts on the recent health care debate. This has become a great forum for those to voice their opinions. Many are discussing the 98,000 people who die every year from medical error. We need to ensure that Congress takes this number into account.

March 2, 2010

The Truth About Health Courts

by Levin & Perconti

In the ever continuing medical malpractice and health care debate a new proposal has emerged. This involves what are being referred to as “health courts” which would force all medical malpractice cases out of the court system. While these courts promise faster, more reliable system of resolving medical malpractice claims, they do not paint all sides of the story.

The Pop Tort explained that health courts are a terrible, anti-patient and highly-controversial concept that has both consumer groups and victims of medical negligence strongly opposed to them. They force all medical malpractice cases into an administrative system based on the failing worker's compensation model. However, this system would be even worse because patients would still have to prove a form of negligence and the decision-makers would come from the medical community. Immediately, the right to jury trial has become eliminated. Also, the courts would have few accountability mechanisms, few procedural safeguards and no meaningful appeals process. There may be a schedule of benefits and a severe cap on non-economic damages. Most importantly, these courts are unconstitutional. By taking away the right to a jury, these courts are in direct opposition to the constitution.

Ray De Lorenzi, a spokesman for the American Association for Justice, stated that health courts would involve a new expensive bureaucracy. Health courts would do nothing to eliminate the 98,000 people who die every year from preventable medical error. He told TheHill.com that fixing preventable medical errors, not creating new bureaucracies, is the right solution. To read more about health courts, please click the link.

February 26, 2010

Obama Disputes Republicans Claims that Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Drive Inflation

by Levin & Perconti

At the recent health care summit President Obama stated that Republicans are overstating the effects that medical malpractice has on the health care system. He disputed the Republican’s claim that medical malpractice lawsuits are the biggest driver of medical inflation. Illinois Democrat Dirk Durbin stated that it is wrong to impose medical malpractice awards when the health care system is the true culprit for rising health care costs. Rather he suggested that Congress should focus on incentivizing states to find innovative ways to reduce medical errors and reduce those medical malpractice lawsuits that should not be filed.

The Democrat’s position on medical malpractice is supported by the Congressional Budget Office’s report. The report shows that medical malpractice lawsuits only constitute 2 percent of total health care expenditures. Enacting tort reform would then only reduce total national health care expenditures by approximately .2 percent. Conversely, the Congressional Budget Office also stated that an additional 4,800 people a year will die if hospital accountability goes down. Currently, the Institute of Medicine estimates that 98,000 people a year die due to medical error. Additionally, tort reform would greatly damage those who are victims of medical error by limiting the amount of compensatory damages they receive. Compensatory damages simply put the patient back to the position they would be in prior to the medical err. These include costs of medical bills, rehabilitation and loss wages. These innocent victims must be adequately compensated for their injuries not only because it is constitutional but because it is just.

To learn more about the medical malpractice debate, check out the San Francisco Chronicle’s article.

February 23, 2010

No Medical Malpractice Reform in President’s Healthcare Proposal

by Levin & Perconti

Leading up to Thursday’s bipartisan healthcare summit, the White House released the President’s Proposal on Healthcare Reform. The proposal includes many pieces of the House and Senate bills that have been debated over the last six months, however, the president did not include any medical malpractice revisions. This move by the president will protect the rights of patients across the country who may become the victims of preventable medical negligence. However, it is anticipated that the GOP will once again fight for the inclusion of tort reform in the bill.

As medical malpractice attorneys who represent victims of negligence, we continue to remind our readers to speak out against tort reform in the national healthcare debate. Recently, we saw the Illinois Supreme Court rule that caps on medical malpractice damages were unconstitutional, a great victory for patients in our state. We hope that our national representatives will follow Illinois’ example and realize that tort reform has no place in the healthcare debate. Healthcare reform should focus on lowering healthcare costs and making affordable healthcare accessible to everyone. Tort reform will not ease access, and it will not lower healthcare costs significantly. In fact, the CBO released a report in October 2009 that said tort reform would only lower the total cost of healthcare spending by 0.5%. To read the full text of the President’s Proposal on healthcare reform, follow the link.

February 21, 2010

Illinois Trial Lawyers Reveal the Truth about Medical Malpractice

by Levin & Perconti

In 2005, the Illinois legislature enacted an arbitrary $500,000 cap on the total amount of non-economic damages that can be recovered by patients in medical malpractice cases and a $1 million cap in those cases against hospitals. The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that this law was unconstitutional and limited patients’ rights. Those proponents of the legislation were arguing that medical malpractice claims and verdicts were skyrocketing which was driving doctors out of Illinois thereby raising your health care costs. In reality these insurance driven arguments were far from the truth.

First, court records have actually shown that the annual filings of medical malpractice lawsuits in Illinois have steadily decreased before 2005. While medical malpractice filings have gone done, insurance companies have been enjoying record profits. Since 2000, malpractice insurance rates have dramatically increased while the frequency and severity of malpractice claims and payouts have not. Medical malpractice payouts have been on the decline nationwide for years. Insurance rate fluctuations are the result of market conditions, not medical malpractice lawsuits.

Instead of focusing on reducing costs, lawmakers should be focusing on improving patient safety. Medical malpractice is a leading cause of death in America, injuring 180,000 people annually. Additionally, 98,000 people wrongfully die annually from medical error. Preventing medical error is the most effective way to avoid malpractice litigation. If you are the victim of medical error, consult a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer. To read more from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association’s response to tort reform, please click the link.

February 20, 2010

Medical Malpractice Survivors Urge President Obama to keep out “Tort Reform”

by Levin & Perconti

A group of medical malpractice survivors sent letters to President Obama and the Congressional leadership urging them to keep additional “tort reforms” out of the health insurance reform bill. They are responding to pressure he has been feeling from the insurance and medical lobbies to limit patients’ legal rights. The Congressional Budget Office has said that even the most brutal restrictions on injured patients would save less than 1 percent of the total health care costs. The survivors wrote that they have endured the problems of state restricted malpractice caps. Malpractice awards need to be suited specifically to aide the victim. The laws have had terrible consequences for them. Some victims of medical malpractice were shut out of courts altogether. Illinois recently passed a landmark decision that declared medical malpractice caps unconstitutional. Illinois has upheld the right decision that puts patient’s rights in front of insurance greed.

The letter concludes, “Medical malpractice has taken a huge toll on all of our lives, as it has on the hundreds of thousands killed or injured each year due to preventable medical errors. Please continue to explore ways to improve patient safety and reduce unnecessary deaths, not diminish accountability for wrongdoers, limit our right to have cases heard before judges and juries, and burden taxpayers with the bill.”

Lawmakers should be concentrating on making the system fairer to doctors and patients. They should look to reducing the 98,000 deaths that occur each year due to medical error.
To read a copy of the letter, please click the link.

February 16, 2010

Illinois Trail Lawyers Reveal the Truth about Medical Malpractice

by Levin & Perconti

In 2005, the Illinois legislature enacted an arbitrary $500,000 cap on the total amount of non-economic damages that can be recovered by patients in medical malpractice cases and a $1 million cap in those cases against hospitals. The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that this law was unconstitutional and limited patients’ rights. Those proponents of the legislation were arguing that medical malpractice claims and verdicts were skyrocketing which was driving doctors out of Illinois thereby raising your health care costs. In reality these insurance driven arguments were far from the truth.

First, court records have actually shown that the annual filings of medical malpractice lawsuits in Illinois have steadily decreased before 2005. While medical malpractice filings have gone done, insurance companies have been enjoying record profits. Since 2000, malpractice insurance rates have dramatically increased while the frequency and severity of malpractice claims and payouts have not. Medical malpractice payouts have been on the decline nationwide for years. Insurance rate fluctuations are the result of market conditions, not medical malpractice lawsuits.

Instead of focusing on reducing costs, lawmakers should be focusing on improving patient safety. Medical malpractice is a leading cause of death in America, injuring 180,000 people annually. Additionally, 98,000 people wrongfully die annually from medical error. Preventing medical error is the most effective way to avoid malpractice litigation. If you are the victim of medical error, consult a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer. To read more from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association’s response to tort reform, please click the link.

January 9, 2010

Illinois Medical Malpractice Attorney Writes Letter to Editor Concerning Malpractice Caps

by Levin & Perconti

The Vice President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association Greg Shevlin recently wrote a letter to the editor concerning the upcoming medical malpractice debate. Currently important legislation is facing the Illinois Supreme Court concerning medical malpractice caps. The case before the Illinois Supreme Court is about a little girl named Abigaile LeBron. This child’s life was forever altered as a result of the medical errors she encountered during her birth. However, there are many that want to cap the amount of damages she can receive in the name of brining down medical malpractice insurance rates. Caps have not lowered malpractice rates for doctors. The answer to fixing our health care situation is insurance reform, not taking away patients’ rights through medical malpractice caps. We must hold the insurance industry accountable for a health care system that is spiraling out of control. To learn more about how medical malpractice caps will injure patient’s rights, contact an Chicago personal injury lawyer.

December 24, 2009

Senate Passes Historic Health Bill

by Levin & Perconti

As a Christmas present to America, the Senate made history by voting 60-39 to pass comprehensive healthcare reform legislation. The resulting bill will provide relief to millions of struggling Americans. The bill does not contain any provisions that would limit an injured patient’s rights concerning medical negligence claims. This is a stunning victory for all those who opposed medical malpractice tort reform. The bills assurance of patient’s rights is just another wonderful aspect of the healthcare legislation. We thank all of you to all those who contacted their respective Senators. Additionally the AAJ’s 98,000 reasons campaign was very successful. To read more about the healthcare legislation, please check out the link.