January 16, 2003 at Scranton, US President Bush outlines his plan to cut malpractic suits. (AP/ Scott Applewhite)


Bush's Tort Reform to Quick-Fix Higher Medical Insurance Premiums:
Cap on jury awards, no frivolous lawsuits, limited punitive damages

Nipawin - Sunday - January 19, 2003 - by: Mario deSantis


We live in a mind-boggling world. We have the capacity to solve our own problems, and yet we do not. The major problem is the push for the privatization of the public good. When we further privatize the public good we further privatize justice. The mind-boggling result is that as we further privatize the public good so we need more legislation to 'protect' what we have unsustainably privatized.




The American health care system is private, the health care insurance malpractice premiums are getting too high and linear thinker President Bush blames such high insurance premiums to frivolous lawsuits and the related multimillion dollars jury awards. President Bush has the quick fix of Tort Reform to solve the malpractice of doctors: a cap of $250,000 on jury awards for pain and suffering, less frivolous lawsuits, and limited punitive damages.




Without getting into the arena of the need to progressively move to a public health system let us review what is happening in medical malpractice insurance.



doctors &

The stakeholders of medical malpractice are: insurance companies, doctors and patients. Insurance companies' interest is to make a profit, the interest of good doctors is to provide effective medical services, and the interests of patients is to receive needed and affordable medical services.



a loop

The insurance companies are not really entrepreneurial as they are now in business to make money with no risk and therefore to make expected profits; so if their insurance claims increase they have no choice but to increase their medical malpractice insurance premiums. Good doctors provide effective services, however as medical malpractice insurance premiums increase they have no choice but to work harder and in the process they increase the incidence of their own malpractice. Ultimately, the patients take the brunt of the increase of medical malpractice costs as they are victimized three times, first for the increase of medical fees, second for being further victims of medical malpractice, and third for having their legal remedies limited by Tort Reform no-fault medical insurance legislation.




The Public Citizen organization has conducted researches in medical malpractice and some of their documented findings are:
  1. Between 44,000 to 98,000 Americans die in hospitals each year due to preventable medical errors, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM)... The IOM estimates the annual costs to society for medical errors in hospitals at $17 billion to $29 billion. These costs include disability and health care costs, lost income, lost household production and the personal costs of care. They do not include medical malpractice occurring outside the hospital setting. By contrast, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners reports that the total amount spent on medical malpractice insurance in 2000 was $6.4 billion ú at least three to five times less than the costs of malpractice to society.

  2. Twelve years ago, Harvard researchers found that only one in eight medical errors committed in hospitals results in a malpractice claim. Researchers replicating this study made similar findings in Utah and Colorado. From 1996 through 1999, Florida hospitals reported 19,885 incidents but only 3,177 medical malpractice claims. In other words, for every 6 medical errors only 1 claim is filed.

  3. Five percent of doctors are responsible for 54 percent of malpractice in the U.S.

  4. Few, if any, malpractice lawsuits are "frivolous." We estimate that the number of cases withdrawn voluntarily by plaintiffs was 92,621, ten times the number of cases that were taken to trial and lost during that period (9,293). The percentage of claims pursued by plaintiffs to final rejection by a jury is only five percent.



not a
and effect

From the above mentioned Public Citizen's findings it becomes a natural logic to finger president Bush Inc. as the culprit for the further deterioration of medical services. The linear thinking mentality of president Bush is expressed by his simple thinking that the effect of higher insurance malpractice premiums have been caused by higher jury awards. We know better, there is more than a direct cause effect relationship between the higher insurance malpractice premiums and the higher jury awards.


Mario deSantis

  President Calls for Medical Liability Reform January 16, 2003 http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/01/20030116.html
  Medical Misdiagnosis: Challenging the Malpractice Claims of the Doctors' Lobby, Executive Summery, Public Citizen, January 9, 2003 http://www.citizen.org/congress/civjus/medmal/articles.cfm?ID=8778


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