Bill on So-Called 'Tort Reform' Unlikely to Pass

As Brett Norman reports for Politico, the everlasting heated exchange between the Republicans and the Democrats is likely to cause any further efforts at so-called tort reform to stall out - one side blames trial lawyers for "out-of-control" medical malpractice lawsuits, while the other side blames the profit motive inherent in running an insurance company. A tort reform bill supported by the Republicans is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Either way, most efforts at tort reform focus on taking crucial decisions away from the jury. But some decisions are always meant to be considered by a jury. Take, for instance, a life-changing birth injury caused by fetal distress that went ignored by the doctor. For many patients, there is no going back from some types of medical malpractice.

But House Republicans want a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages (a.k.a. the patient's pain and suffering caused by medical negligence) in federal cases, much as states like Texas have done. Texas Gov. Rick Perry's much touted efforts at tort reform are said to have led to an influx of doctors seeking lower malpractice insurance premiums, due in part to a $250,000 cap in that state.

There are, however, conflicting reports on whether caps on pain and suffering and other tort reform measures will do anything substantial in lowering health care costs in the long-term. After all, tort reform does nothing to remove the inherent profit motive in the insurance industry, and it certainly does not guarantee to improve the quality of health care provided by negligent doctors.

Source: Politico, "Medical malpractice reform efforts stalled," by Brett Norman, 11/7/11

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