NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Health Court

August 19, 2002

The cost of health care is increasing tremendously, due in part to medical-malpractice awards. Huge awards are driving up the cost of malpractice insurance, which doctors must pass on to consumers. To help alleviate these pressures, Newt Gingrich argues that the United States should have specialized courts for medical cases.

The health-care system is facing tremendous pressures:

  • The American Medical Association reports that 12 states -- including mega-states Texas, New York, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- are in serious danger of doctor shortages because of rapidly rising malpractice-insurance premiums caused by large awards.
  • Lawyers are a primary beneficiary of these large awards.
  • Personal injury lawyers are earning up to 60 percent of jury medical-malpractice awards that regularly top $1 million -- often, doctors suspect, because jurors frustrated with today's health-care system take it out on them.

Gingrich argues that to provide a reasonable recourse to patients and protect doctors against a litigious society, America needs a new health care court system. The court should be composed of medical experts, similar to other specialized courts, such as patent courts and family courts. The benefits are numerous:

  • Judges with medical expertise could objectively determine whether legitimate malpractice has occurred - trial lawyers could not manipulate emotions of knowledgeable judges, as they now do with jurors.
  • Doctors who have not acted improperly could be confident that judges who understand complex health issues would decide their cases.
  • Patients who are dissatisfied with the outcomes in a health court could take their cases to a civil court, but they would have to present the findings of the health court to a civil jury.

Source: Newt Gingrich, "Excessive jury awards endanger medical system," USA Today, August 12, 2002.

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