Tort reform is a common topic among medical malpractice attorneys, lawmakers, medical professionals, insurance companies, and the community at large. For decades there have been debates about these laws and their effect. Through it all, our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers were steadfast in our support of patients rights. The data continues to bear out that point–tort reform does nothing more than take away the rights of negligence victims without bringing any of the claimed “benefits.” Insurance companies and the medical lobby are the only beneficiaries of these rule changes.
A recent Digital Journal submission made the same point, discussing many tort reform myths and the tens of thousands of patients that continue to suffer harm every year as a result of medical negligence. The story discusses the National Practitioner Data Bank which collects information on medical errors nationwide. Many medical practitioners do not like the databank because of the spotlight it shines on the continued safety problem at many institutions. Upwards of 100,000 patients die each and year (at least) as a result of medical errors. Literally millions may suffer some form of injury.
Yet, discussion by policymakers about medical safety is dwarfed in comparison to discussions about “tort reform”–which is an innocuous way of describing a policy about taking the rights away from injured patients. Amazingly, many are still under the false assumption that these measures will somehow spur things like lower medical costs. Case after case has proven unequivocally that it simply is not true. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys know that medical malpractice lawsuits are not connected to the rising cost of healthcare. Claims to the contrary are simply disingenuous and made to pass laws that help no one but the medical lobby and insurance companies.
For example, take the broad national statistics on these issues over the past ten years. In 2001 there were 16,000 payments for negligence by a doctor. That number has decreased for the last ten years–every single year. Last year, there were just 8,500 payouts. That represents a 47% decline.
If medical malpractice lawsuits were a cause of rising health care costs, then we should have seen a steady decrease in healthcare rates. Did we? Of course not. Did we see at least a leveling out of rates? Of course not. What we did see was a sharp increase in medical costs at the very time when lawsuits plummeted. And yet, in the face of this evidence, claims are still made over and over about the need to curb lawsuits to stem rising medical costs.
So what is the result of tort reform? Injured patients with no legal recourse and record profits for insurance companies. The ten largest medical malpractice insurers have profit margins double that of the 50 most profitable Fortune 500 companies. At the same time, little progress has been made on patient safety issues. Thousands of patients continue to be hurt each day as a result of preventable errors.
Hopefully more and more community members learn about these issues and fight back against misguided claims and distortions.
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