NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Medical Malpractice Tort Reform

October 1, 2002

Reacting to the alarming flight of doctors from medical fields at high risk of attracting malpractice suits, the House last week passed a bill last week which would limit damage awards in such suits. But legislative specialists hold little hope for passage in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats who have little love for tort reform and a great deal of affection for plaintiffs' lawyers. Observers nickname it the tort reform graveyard.

Reformers say the House bill would go a long way toward addressing the doctor drain, because it would reduce the cost of medical malpractice insurance coverage -- which has skyrocketed beyond the range of affordability for some physicians.

  • The Congressional Budget Office says the bill would lower medical malpractice premiums by 25 percent to 30 percent.
  • Lower premiums would lead to lower health care and health insurance costs.
  • Employers paying less for insurance would have more cash for employee taxable wages -- increasing federal revenues by $2.4 billion over 10 years.
  • The government would save $11.3 billion in direct spending for Medicare/Medicaid and federal-paid premiums.

According to the American Medical Association, medical liability has become a crisis in about a dozen states -- and another 30 show problem signs. Doctors are leaving such high-risk fields as obstetrics, neurosurgery and emergency medicine because they can no longer afford the coverage.

Source: Editorial, "Lawyers Vs. Patients -- II," Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2002.

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