The Illinois Supreme Court is expected to release its opinion on the constitutionality of medical malpractice damage caps on Thursday morning. The Illinois Medical Malpractice Act of 2005, which capped non-economic damages such as pain and suffering to $500,000 doctors and $1 million for hospitals, came before the court in the case of Abigaile Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital. In 2007, a Cook County Circuit Court Judge stated that the medical malpractice caps were unconstitutional. The law does not limit actual damages, including medical expenses and lost wages. To read more about the crucial upcoming case, please click the link.
It has been more than four years since medical malpractice reform was enacted in Illinois, and stakeholders are anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court decision on its constitutionality. Then-Governor Rod Blagojevich had signed the Illinois Medical Malpractice Act of 2005 into law on August 24, 2005. The bill would have automatically become law the next day had the governor not ceremoniously signed it before a large crowd of doctors and lawyers. The law caps non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, for physicians at $500,000 and hospitals at $1 million. The Illinois Supreme Court is expected to release its opinion in a challenge case that arose from Cook County. The case was Abigaile Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital. An a against all odds-legislative victor for medical liability reform advocates set the stage for the historic bill signing in 2005. At the signing, Blagojevich told the overflow crowd that he was personally opposed to medical malpractice caps, but believed it was the right thing to do so that more people could have access to healthcare. Medical malpractice caps do nothing but injure victims of medical negligence. Hopefully, these caps will be found unconstitutional. To learn more about the pending case, please follow the link.
Lately, there has been a great deal of press given to medical malpractice damage caps and the part they play in reducing health care costs. However, people forget that damage caps would result in patients losing the benefit of the market oversight and penalties associated with malpractice underwriting. Capping liability could reduce the private market efforts to investigate the risk characteristics of the individuals they insure. Also, medical malpractice caps would harm injured patients. Instead, experts state that managed-care arrangements would be more useful in achieving the goals of lowering health care. They would allow medical professional liability insurance underwriters to continue to provide both oversight and penalties for medical negligence and substandard care. By setting up appropriate incentives, medical professional liability insurance can contribute to consumer protection in the market of physician services without taking away a patient’s rights. Putting caps on damages will only inhibit these efforts and hurt victims of medical negligence. To read more about the medical negligence, please click the link.
Seven years ago a woman entered a hospital for removal of her right ovary. However, she left the hospital with her left ovary removed. The patient filed a medical malpractice lawsuit and it is now headed towards the Kansas Supreme Court. The case has drawn attention because it discusses the constitutionality of placing caps on damages for pain and suffering. Currently the state does not allow damages to exceed the $250,000 medical malpractice cap. These medical malpractice caps take away the jury’s role in calculating malpractice damages and infringe on the separation powers of the courts. Most importantly, these medical malpractice caps hurt those with life-altering medical injuries. To read more about the medical malpractice damages, please click the link.
The Palm Beach Post reported that an appellate court has reinstated the $10.3 million settlement a jury awarded her after she lost her husband to a medical mistake. The family was awarded the money in 2003 after a jury found that the victim died because he did not receive treatment at a hospital. The case was almost overturned after a state law that caps jury awards in medical malpractice cases dictated that the victims could not receive their full award. The court found that the time of the victim’s death and the date the legislature decided to cap jury awards did not correlate. Since the man’s injury came before the caps went into effect, the court believed they didn’t apply. The man was rushed to the hospital in 2003 after a heart attack. Once he got to the hospital he did not receive proper care and was physically drained and unable to enjoy life. He died after complications from a heart transplant years after the medical error. The family is able to receive the $9.5 million award that the jury rightfully awarded them. To read more about the medical malpractice case, please click the link.
Tom Baker, a national expert on the impact of medical malpractice litigation on physician’s insurance costs, recently sat down with the Connecticut Tribune to discuss the recent health care reform debate. Several years ago, Baker studied the impact of medical malpractice litigation on health care-costs. He found that the vast majority of potential claimants recovered little or nothing in their medical malpractice suit. Baker discussed that medical malpractice reform isn’t always simply having caps on pain and suffering damages. He believes that one route is to make medical practice safer. This would not take away the litigant’s rights to recover in courts. Hopefully, the Obama administration will focus on patient safety and compensation. Baker believes that the best medical malpractice reform will come when the system is designed to make medical mistakes nearly impossible. To read more about the expert on medical malpractice, please click the link.
Recently, the President’s idea of tort reform has created a heated debate. One editorial discusses the myths and facts of tort reform. President Obama continued to endorse conservative ideas such as efforts to prevent victims of medical malpractice from winning compensation in the civil justice system in his health care speech. In the speech he stated “that he wants to look to a ‘range of ideas’ to ‘put patient safety first and let doctors’ focus on practicing medicine.’ Obama says some in Congress believe medical malpractice reform can help bring down health care costs. Although he doesn’t consider it the ‘silver bullet’ he knows that doctors practicing what he terms defensive medicine can lead to unnecessary costs. The reality is that “few causes in the healthcare debate draw more support than tort reform, the idea of reining in frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits. However, reliable reports estimate the costs of medical malpractice litigation at less than 2 percent of overall healthcare costs. There is also a pressing need for medical malpractice after a recent study highlighted the 98,000 deaths that occur each year by medical error. This is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Therefore it seems that legislators are giving the American public only some of the facts about medical malpractice.
It is also evident that medical malpractice caps are not working. Texas, the state with the most stringent caps on medical malpractice lawsuits, has the highest health care costs. In the end, a study in this state show that doctors are not ordering extra tests for feared of being sued, but rather to get paid more money. Instead of focusing on malpractice caps, let’s reform the way the doctors are compensated, so that wellness and preventive care is rewarded. This way we can work to reduce health problems and medical errors. To read the medical malpractice editorial, please click the link.
The AAJ responded to President Obama’s speech to the American Medical Association today by stressing the importance of focusing on patient safety when discussing health care reform. On its website, the AAJ calls attention to the fact that there has been a lot of talk about restricting patients’ rights but little done to address the prevention of medical errors. While medical malpractice lawsuits are a tiny percentage of health care costs, the website notes that 98,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors. The AAJ calls for lawmakers to focus on lowering the number of medical errors instead of further harming patients who may become the victim of these errors. Read more about the AAJ’s position on medical malpractice reform as part of the larger push for health care reform.
As President Obama prepares to meet with the American Medical Association today in Chicago, a New York Times article reports that President Obama has been in talks to possibly support the reduction of medical malpractice lawsuits. While health care professionals support this change, personal injury attorneys argue that this change will negatively affect those injured or killed in incidents of medical negligence. Many see this move as a way to draw Republican support of his larger push for health care reform. To read the entire article on possible medical malpractice reform, follow the link.
Key players from Congress and the Obama Administration are once again bringing medical malpractice reform to the table. An AP article discusses that these changes could benefit doctors and hospitals but they would also harm a plaintiff’s ability to seek just compensation when they are involved in a medical malpractice case. Trial lawyers argue that medical malpractice lawsuits are not to blame for rising health care costs and only account for a very small portion of costs.
To read the full article about medical malpractice reform, visit the link.