Political discussions about tort reform often seem to divide down political lines. The Illinois medical malpractice lawyers at our firm know that there is an impression among many that conservatives always support tort reform, while liberals are always opposed. Like so much in today’s political world, those stereotype are gross generalizations that fail to account for much of the complexity within the actual discussions about changes to our civil justice system. For one thing, over the past few months we have discussed how many of the most well-known so-called “conservative” legal scholars have come out against the effort to nationalize tort reform via a proposed piece of legislation known as House Resolution 5. Following in that trend, last week the Washington D.C. based libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute, released a study which declared the ill-advised nature of most medical malpractice caps. The Institute explained that there was no proof to the claim by those pushing for medical malpractice reform that the awards in these cases were excessive when compared to the actual damages suffered by those involved.
In addition, the study’s authors-by no means a group known to be aligned with lawyers-echoed a concern that our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys have often reported: These caps do little to make health care more affordable. Instead, what the caps actually do is result in some victims not receiving the compensation that they need and reducing the incentives for physicians to reduce their risk of negligence. It was explained how the threat of a medical malpractice lawsuit is actually well accounted for in the current malpractice insurance system. Physicians’ are rated according to an experience ranking which tracks the premium that they have to pay. Less risky physicians are rewarded with lower premiums. The Institute explains how caps eliminate the incentives for insurance carriers to tack the risks presented by physicians.
The report also calls out many state medical boards which do little to punish doctors who continually make mistakes. Failure to punish these bad doctors increases risks to patients. Most patients will never be made aware of the high-risk presented by the very worst doctors. In many cases, the report authors declare, it almost seems as if these medical oversight boards go out of their way to protect bad doctors from any public scrutiny about their often-deadly mistakes.
The fight to enact these caps nationwide continues. While H.R. 5 has been stalled for now, another threat looms. The “super committee” is currently meeting made up of a bipartisan group of Congress members to discuss debt reduction cuts. Many powerful interests groups with a lot to gain with the enactment of tort reform are hoping to use to committee’s unique role to push through tort reform measures. It remains important for all those who understand the vital role of the justice system to stand up to these and similar efforts. Please take the time to call or email your federal representatives to urge their rejection of all attempts to tamper with the medical malpractice system.
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