Articles Posted in Health Care Reform

While we all watch the U.S. Congress debate whether or not medical malpractice law needs to be reformed it is important to know the facts when it comes to the insurance industry. For example, do you know that Illinois’ largest malpractice insurer’s payouts have remained flat for over a decade? This has occurred despite the fact that premiums and profits have skyrocketed. Additionally, medical malpractice insurance rate increases between 2000 and 2005 has resulted in insurance company profits that have broken records and left executives with large compensation packages. This all leads to the ultimate fact that medical malpractice claims are not to blame for the increase in insurance rates. Instead we should all be looking to the business conditions and diminished returns on the insurance companies’ financial investments.

The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association’s White Paper has highlighted all of the myths and facts associated with medical malpractice in Illinois. In reality, court records have shown that medical malpractice lawsuits in Illinois were actually decreasing before the enactment of the damages caps in 2005. Claims, lawsuits and payouts all have been stable or declining. They are not to blame for the increases in doctors’ malpractice insurance rates. Also, claims and lawsuits have not caused an increase in the costs of health care. We need to start focusing on the facts rather than the propaganda. There needs to be true insurance reform that will focus on patient safety. This will be the best and most practical way to decrease insurance costs by reducing medical error.

Recently Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated on Meet the Press that the health care overhaul should reduce the number of medical malpractice lawsuits. He believes that malpractice is an area where Democrats should show more flexibility in the revised health care legislation. However, what Mr. McConnell failed to tell the American public is that every year 98,000 people die as a result of medical error. Additionally, studies show that provisions such as medical malpractice caps do not lower insurance premiums. Republicans and Democrats alike should work towards changing health care in a way that does not limit a patient’s rights. To read more about the health care debate, please click the link.

Despite Republican efforts to enact tort reform, the recent healthcare bills leave the country’s medical malpractice system in tact. This is because medical malpractice lawsuits are often the only recourse for thousands victimized by medical error. Studies show that approximately 98,000 patients are killed each year by medical errors. Forty-six states have passed some sort of tort reform, and these states do not have lower costs or coverage for the uninsured. This proves that attempts to limit patient rights should not be included in the health care bill. By focusing on reducing medical errors, the healthcare system can help avoid the 98,000 wrongful deaths each year. Please contact your congressman and voice your opposition to medical malpractice reform. To read more of the ongoing debate, click the link.

A woman and her fiancé filed a federal medical malpractice lawsuit against two hospitals. They allege that they were ignored in a hospital emergency room so long that they returned home where the woman gave birth to a premature baby. The baby then died. The victims allege that their federal right to emergency medical treatment was violated. They seek unspecified damages for emotional distress. The two did not have medical insurance. There are current investigations as to whether the couple was ignored after the woman entered the hospital with severe abdominal pain. Federal law requires that most hospitals provide emergency attention to patients whether or not they have insurance. To ignore such a patient is medical malpractice. After visiting to two hospitals the couple went home. The mother gave birth to a breach baby and the 1-pound, 6 ounce baby girl was pronounced dead at the scene. This type of medical error goes hand in hand with health care reform. To read more about the birth injury, please click the link.

An analysis of data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and company annual statements shows malpractice insurer profits are 24 percent higher in states with caps. In the cap states, insurers took in 3.5 times more in premiums than they paid out in 2008. However, insurers in states without caps took in just over twice what they paid in claims. The findings show that there is no correlation between the cost of medical malpractice premiums and health insurance premiums. The American Association for Justice President Anthony Tarricone, stated that the data shows that tort reform is just another insurance company handout. While 98,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors, it makes no sense to limit patients’ rights to fill insurance company coffers.

To learn more about the health care debate, and how it affects victims, visit www.98000reasons.org. To take a look at the entire report, please click the link.

In Washington, President Obama stated that he would be open to suggestions about constraining medical malpractice lawsuits. However, repeated studies have shown that approximately 100,000 people die each year due to medical malpractice in our nation’s hospitals. These occur because physicians or hospitals fail to meet the normal standard of care. For example, say a hospital allows an expectant mother to lie in one of its labor rooms, fails to notice for several hours that the fetal monitor shows the fetus in distress, and the child is born severely brain damages. Should that hospital be insulated from a medical malpractice lawsuit? If so, who will pay for the lifetime care of the child? Rumors that medical malpractice lawsuits are consistently rising are completely false. In the state of New York, medical malpractice lawsuits have decreased by 30%. Since plaintiffs lawyers work on a contingent basis, frivolous lawsuits are not filed. If you want to reduce the number of medical malpractice cases, reduce negligent behavior that causes victims to sue. Please click the link to learn more about tort myths.

Recently Illinois Senator Dick Durbin gave a speech on the senate floor in defense of medical malpractice victims. He reminded the Senate that medical malpractice claims and lawsuit payouts are decreasing in America. Only one percent of doctors are being charged with medical malpractice and paying each year. In addition only two to three percent of medical negligence incidents actually lead to malpractice claims. Senator Durbin also cited a study that found that a 10-percent reduction in costs related to medical malpractice liability would increase the nation’s overall death rate by .2 percent. That amounts to 4,853 more American deaths per year. He asked Congress if they were willing to use so many lives to medical mistake in order to save some money. He focused on the fact that 98,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors. In monetary terms, these medical mistakes cost an extra $9.3 billion a year. Durbin spoke candidly that medical malpractice insurance companies are making more and more money each year, yet complaining that malpractice is the reason for high health care costs. He suggested reducing the cost of medical malpractice insurance and most importantly reducing medical errors. The medical malpractice attorneys of Levin & Perconti applaud Senator Durbin’s efforts to protect patient’s rights. Please visit the CSPAN-2 website in order to view the speech.

Tort reform proponents assert that medical malpractice costs are a significant factor in rising health care costs, yet they are clearly wrong. Medical malpractice premiums account for only a tiny fraction of our medical bills and have not risen the way that health care costs have. Also, tort reform advocates tend to disparage the performance of the jury system. Usually juries only compensate patients who are true victims of medical malpractice. Advocates also forget that the right to a jury is a constitutionally protected right. Problems can be addressed with modest changes in the current system. Many victims of medical error feel better with an apology. Also, we need to compensate more victims with less-severe injuries in order to simplify the small claims process. Caps on recoverable damages only punish those who are victims of grave medical errors. To read more about tort reform, please click the link.

While the House passed a sweeping health care overhaul this weekend, opponents of true reform attacked injured patients. They did so despite countless studies that show that tort reform will do little to diminish health care costs in this country. Tort law changes will do practically nothing to lower the costs or cover the uninsured. One patient’s story shows that legislators must consider the injured patients in their discussions. Blake Fought was 19 years old and about to be released from the hospital. Before he left however, the untrained nurse tried to remove his central line IV and did not follow the proper procedures. This caused bubbles to enter Blake’s brain, heart and blood vessels. He became one of the estimated 98,000 patients who die each year from preventable medical errors. Countless more are seriously injured. This is a number far too large for lawmakers to ignore. Tort law changes will not fix America’s broken health care system, but only hurt families fighting to find justice. To read more about tort reform, please click the link.

Five Myths About Medical Negligence, is one in a series of reports from the American Association for Justice on the errors and faults behind the most commonly used talking points of health care reform opponents.

The first myth is that there are too many “frivolous” malpractice lawsuits. The fact is that there is an epidemic of medical negligence, not lawsuits. Only one in eight people injured by medical negligence ever file a lawsuit. Also civil findings have declined eight percent over the past decade. A 2006 Harvard study found that 97 percent of claims were meritorious stating that “portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown.”

The second myth is that malpractice claims drive up health care costs. However reports show that compensating victims of medical negligence was just 0.3% of health care costs.

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