The newest attempt at replacing the Affordable Care Act will make it more difficult to win medical malpractice suits. The target of this bill is mainly Medicare and Medicaid. White House press secretary, Sean Spicer claims that the bill would limit “frivolous lawsuits that unnecessarily drive up health care costs.” However, some experts say that there isn’t a problem that needs fixing.
Who Will the Bill Affect?
Since the bill targets, medical malpractice suits involving care under Medicaid and Medicare, low-income and older people will feel the biggest effect. The bill also targets those who receive subsidies under the ACA. You may think that receiving your benefits from your employer makes you exempt but think again. The government provides subsidies to employers through the ACA so those policies would be affected as well.
Republicans claim that this provision will help reduce insurance costs. While this may be true, there will be some consequences. The most likely of which is denying full restitution to those who fall victim to medical malpractice.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would reduce the federal budget deficits by almost $50 billion over ten years. The savings would come from a reduction of what doctors call “defensive medicine.” Doctors often issue extra tests to prevent future medical malpractice suits. This added cost is passed on to the taxpayer in cases where patients have Medicaid and Medicare.
The bill would set a $250,000 limit on “noneconomic damages,” which include compensation for pain and suffering. There would be no cap for recouping economic damages. Economic damages include medical expenses and lost earnings.
The last provision of the bill would limit the contingency fees that lawyers can charge for representing a plaintiff in medical malpractice suits.
Is There a Problem With Medical Malpractice Suits?
If you ask Republican politicians the answer is yes, but many experts disagree. Since the election, Republicans have been outspoken about their intention for tort reform. The fact that malpractice insurance premiums are through the roof was once real. However, in the last 15 years, the price of malpractice insurance has consistently decreased.
Doctors are paying less for malpractice insurance today than they were in 2001 and that is before adjusting for inflation. According to Michael Matray, the editor of Medical Liability Monitor, a trade publication, “It’s a wonderful time for doctors looking for coverage, and it’s never been better for insurers.” The rhetoric does not match the reality. This is true for many “problems” politicians aim to fix.
The Doctors Company, one of the largest malpractice insurers says that not only have prices decreased but claims as well. Medical malpractice suits have been cut in half since 2003.
The Problem With Medical Malpractice Reform
The biggest issue with the bill is the fact that it limits a patient’s access to the justice system. Everyone should have free access to the justice system no matter where their insurance comes from. This bill unfairly targets specific segments of the population to fix a problem that doesn’t’ exist.
Of course, Republicans overstate claims that prove the size of the problem. G.O.P. politicians claim that this bill will save more than $300 billion. However, this number doesn’t mesh with what non-partisan groups claim.
The other issue with this bill is that it does nothing to curb the problem of medical errors. 250,000 people die because of improper medical treatment. That is a staggering number. That would mean that medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. As you can see, because there is a large problem with medical malpractice, limiting a victim’s recourse is a bad decision.
This bill is one-sided, to say the least. The bill only offers protection to doctors and offers nothing to patients. Any real medical malpractice reform would have to tackle all the issues. Limiting the losses of doctors isn’t good enough especially when the problem isn’t that big, to begin with.
The icing on the cake is that similar bills have been struck down by courts at the state level. Some states already have existing caps on damages, but these limits are only one of the factors that have driven down malpractice insurance premiums.
Medical Malpractice Suits
For now, there are have been no changes to the law. If you have been a victim of medical malpractice contact an attorney immediately. The Law Office of David Morowitz has years of experience handling medical malpractice cases. The firm solely focuses on civil litigation which allows them to help you get the award or settlement you deserve.