At the recent health care summit President Obama stated that Republicans are overstating the effects that medical malpractice has on the health care system. He disputed the Republican’s claim that medical malpractice lawsuits are the biggest driver of medical inflation. Illinois Democrat Dirk Durbin stated that it is wrong to impose medical malpractice awards when the health care system is the true culprit for rising health care costs. Rather he suggested that Congress should focus on incentivizing states to find innovative ways to reduce medical errors and reduce those medical malpractice lawsuits that should not be filed.
The Democrat’s position on medical malpractice is supported by the Congressional Budget Office’s report. The report shows that medical malpractice lawsuits only constitute 2 percent of total health care expenditures. Enacting tort reform would then only reduce total national health care expenditures by approximately .2 percent. Conversely, the Congressional Budget Office also stated that an additional 4,800 people a year will die if hospital accountability goes down. Currently, the Institute of Medicine estimates that 98,000 people a year die due to medical error. Additionally, tort reform would greatly damage those who are victims of medical error by limiting the amount of compensatory damages they receive. Compensatory damages simply put the patient back to the position they would be in prior to the medical err. These include costs of medical bills, rehabilitation and loss wages. These innocent victims must be adequately compensated for their injuries not only because it is constitutional but because it is just.
To learn more about the medical malpractice debate, check out the San Francisco Chronicle’s article.