Sarah Palin is calling for Tort Reform to be the hallmark of any kind of health care reform:
President Obama’s health care “reform” plan has met with significant criticism across the country. Many Americans want change and reform in our current health care system. We recognize that while we have the greatest medical care in the world, there are major problems that we must face, especially in terms of reining in costs and allowing care to be affordable for all. However, as we have seen, current plans being pushed by the Democratic leadership represent change that may not be what we had in mind — change which poses serious ethical concerns over the government having control over our families’ health care decisions. In addition, the current plans greatly increase costs of health care, while doing lip service toward controlling costs.
We need to address a REAL bipartisan reform proposition that will have REAL impacts on costs and quality of patient care.
As Governor of Alaska, I learned a little bit about being a target for frivolous suits and complaints (Please, do I really need to footnote that?). I went my whole life without needing a lawyer on speed-dial, but all that changes when you become a target for opportunists and people with no scruples. Our nation’s health care providers have been the targets of similar opportunists for years, and they too have found themselves subjected to false, frivolous, and baseless claims. To quote a former president, “I feel your pain.”
So what can we do? First, we cannot have health care reform without tort reform. The two are intertwined. For example, one supposed justification for socialized medicine is the high cost of health care. As Dr. Scott Gottlieb recently noted, “If Mr. Obama is serious about lowering costs, he’ll need to reform the economic structures in medicine—especially programs like Medicare.” Two examples of these “economic structures” are high malpractice insurance premiums foisted on physicians (and ultimately passed on to consumers as “high health care costs”) and the billions wasted on defensive medicine.
Dr. Stuart Weinstein, with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, recently explained the problem:
”The medical liability crisis has had many unintended consequences, most notably a decrease in access to care in a growing number of states and an increase in healthcare costs.
Access is affected as physicians move their practices to states with lower liability rates and change their practice patterns to reduce or eliminate high-risk services. When one considers that half of all neurosurgeons—as well as one third of all orthopedic surgeons, one third of all emergency physicians, and one third of all trauma surgeons—are sued each year, is it any wonder that 70 percent of emergency departments are at risk because they lack available on-call specialist coverage?”
Dr. Weinstein makes good points, points completely ignored by President Obama. Dr. Weinstein details the costs that our out-of-control tort system are causing the health care industry and notes research that “found that liability reforms could reduce defensive medicine practices, leading to a 5 percent to 9 percent reduction in medical expenditures without any effect on mortality or medical complications.” Dr. Weinstein writes:
“If the Kessler and McClellan estimates were applied to total U.S. healthcare spending in 2005, the defensive medicine costs would total between $100 billion and $178 billion per year. Add to this the cost of defending malpractice cases, paying compensation, and covering additional administrative costs (a total of $29.4 billion). Thus, the average American family pays an additional $1,700 to $2,000 per year in healthcare costs simply to cover the costs of defensive medicine.
Excessive litigation and waste in the nation’s current tort system imposes an estimated yearly tort tax of $9,827 for a family of four and increases healthcare spending in the United States by $124 billion. How does this translate to individuals? The average obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) delivers 100 babies per year. If that OB-GYN must pay a medical liability premium of $200,000 each year (which is the rate in Florida), $2,000 of the delivery cost for each baby goes to pay the cost of the medical liability premium.”
You would think that any effort to reform our health care system would include tort reform, especially if the stated purpose for Obama’s plan to nationalize our health care industry is the current high costs.
So I have new questions for the president: Why no legal reform? Why continue to encourage defensive medicine that wastes billions of dollars and does nothing for the patients? Do you want health care reform to benefit trial attorneys or patients?
She goes on to write that in Texas, after enacting caps on lawsuit awards against providers, malpractice claims dropped 41%.
In 2003, I declared the medical liability crisis an emergency item, and the legislature responded, passing sweeping reforms that protected the patient, but also shielded doctors and hospitals from unscrupulous trial lawyers eager to make a quick buck at the system’s expense.
We capped non-economic damages at $250,000 per defendant, or up to $750,000 per incident, while placing no cap on more easily determined economic damages, such as lost wages or cost of medical care due to injury.
We ended the practice of allowing baseless, but expensive, lawsuits to drag on indefinitely, requiring plaintiffs to provide expert witness reports to support their claims within four months of filing suit or drop the case.
These measures were supported by the people of Texas, who in September of 2003 approved a ballot measure, Proposition 12, authorizing all of these changes.
Changes were seen immediately, and continue to be felt. All major liability insurers cut their rates upon passage of our reforms, with most of those cuts ranging in the double-digits. More than 10 new insurance carriers entered the Texas market, increasing competition and further lowering costs.
As a result, Texas doctors have seen their insurance rates decline by, on average, 27 percent.
The number of doctors applying to practice medicine in Texas has skyrocketed by 57 percent. In 2008, the Texas Medical Board received 4,023 licensure applications and issued a record 3,621 new licenses.
In all, in just the first five years after reforms passed, 14,498 doctors either returned to practice in Texas or began practicing here for the first time.
In her own state of Alaska they enacted the “losers pay” rule which most certainly deters frivolous claims.
So why is it that Congress and Obama hasn’t even addressed Tort reform? Well, lets take a look at Trial Lawyer contributions:
An Examiner analysis of the 15 firms on the National Law Journal’s “2008 Plaintiff’s Hot List” shows that for 2009, their employees have contributed $636,305 to federal politicians and PACs. Only $4,875 of that amount has gone to Republicans, meaning that the nation’s top trial lawyers are giving more than 99 percent Democratic this year. The PAC for the American Association of Justice, the top trial lawyer lobbying group, has been marginally more balanced, giving Democrats a mere 96 percent of its $627,000 in contributions.
Oh, and then add on the fact that many of our elected politicians in Congress are attorneys themseves and you can now understand why they don’t do a damn thing about it. Because their greedy, grubby hands are deep in the pocket of these lawyer associations and they don’t want to do anything to piss them off.
But keep going Sarah! She is driving the debate from Facebook and forcing these yahoo’s to answer.