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Medical Malpractice Lawsuits are not Driving the Cost of Health Care

President Obama started a debate last week when he said he’d consider medical malpractice tort reform as part of his health care overhaul. Although this plan falls short of the malpractice awards that Republicans and physician groups support, the president spoke only of “demonstration projects” at state levels. However, few economists believe tort reform would significantly reduce what Americans spend on health care. Experts say that the big reasons for health spending are chronic illness, expensive new medical technology and an aging population. Medical malpractice lawsuits are far down the list on reasons for health spending. The most authoritative estimates put the direct cost of malpractice litigation, including everything, at about 2 percent of overall health care spending. Additionally, the biggest portion of medical malpractice settlements and jury awards are not for “pain and suffering” or punitive damages, but for actual damages. These include lost income and future medical treatment. Even in states where malpractice caps have been enacted, health care spending is rising just as fast as it is elsewhere. Therefore, it is obvious that medical malpractice tort reform will not aid in the decrease of health care spending and will only work to harm the victims of medical error. To read more about tort reform, please click the link.