A new study conducted by a group of professors at prestigious law schools reveals that tort reform is ineffective at reducing health care spending. Tort reform initiatives seek to limit plaintiff’s access to the court system, restrict the types of claims that can be asserted, and cap the damages to which you may recover in a lawsuit.
Tort reform advocates and health care providers purport that the fear of medical malpractice lawsuits costs the health care industry billions of dollars every year and that tort reform to cap the liability of doctors and other healthcare providers would result in reduced overall health care spending.
The study finds, however, that there is no evidence of reductions in health care spending following the enactment of various tort reform measures in Texas. The study examined the ways that Medicare spending changed after Texas adopted comprehensive tort reform in 2003 that included a strict damages cap. The study also compared Medicare spending in Texas counties with high Medicare claim rates with counties with low Medicare claim rates and found little difference between the two. When compared to national trends, the study found no evidence of reduced health care spending in Texas following the tort reform damage caps. In fact, the study revealed some evidence that physical spending actually increased in Texas relative to various control states.
As we reported in May 2012, a federal judge recently upheld Texas’ cap on non-economic “pain and suffering” damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. Pursuant to the Medical Malpractice and Tort Reform Act of 2003, noneconomic damages are capped at $250,000 if the defendant is a physician or hospital. If a separate unrelated hospital or health care institution is named as a second defendant in the case, the plaintiff may be entitled to an extra $250,000. Plaintiffs had argued that the noneconomic damages cap was unconstitutional because it amounted to an improper taking of private property and barred access to the courts, but U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap disagreed.
Nearly 30 states currently limit the amount of damages that can be received in a medical malpractice lawsuit, according to the American Medical Association. States with damage caps vary wildly in their limitations and the types of damages that are limited. For instance, California limits non-compensatory damages at $250,000, while Nebraska limits total damages at $1.75 million.
At Ankin Law Offices, LLC our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of victims of medical malpractice and their families. Tort reform and damage caps undoubtedly hurt patients and the general public by failing to hold doctors, hospitals and other medical professionals financially responsible for their injuries or deaths that they have caused. If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 600-0000 to schedule a free consultation.