NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Reducing Excessive Medical Malpractice Awards

July 9, 2003

Because they contribute to the practice of "defensive" medicine -- or unnecessary procedures just to be sure -- liability suits are also a major cause of rising health care costs.

Yet Democrats are expected to muster the 41 votes needed to kill medical liability reform in the Senate today. So why are Republicans smiling? Perhaps because they know they're teeing up what promises to be one of their better issues going into 2004, according to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

Likewise, the American Medical Association says that no fewer than 19 states are in "malpractice" crisis:

  • Doctors have protested or walked out from Nevada to New Jersey, while pregnant women have had to cross state lines to find an obstetrician.
  • One New Jersey doctor has held seminars to train toll-booth operators in emergency delivery, since more live births are likely to occur in transit to a distant hospital.
  • Before Texas passed a recent reform, 14 of 17 medical insurers had left in the past two years.
  • In Arkansas, doctors who treat nursing-home patients face a 1,000 percent premium increase on renewals.
  • In West Virginia, trauma centers closed and doctors went on strike before Democratic Governor Bob Wise led a successful reform effort.

The vote in Congress will help the argument for national reform by educating Americans about the problem and who refuses to solve it. Also, it will get the Democrats on record for killing reform one more time. They will then have handed President Bush and most Republicans an issue that is both good policy and good politics for next year, says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "Political Malpractice," Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2003.

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