The Hypocrisy of Tort Reform

Understanding why medical malpractice reform is a betrayal of conservative ideology is one of many reasons to oppose it.

The bedrock of political conservative ideology is that the federal government should be divested of power, and instead, states should be free to govern themselves as each sees fit. Ironically, the United States House of Representative's, "Protecting Access to Care Act," which is the latest effort at federally imposed tort reform, violates this most basic conservative principle.

The Act intentionally seeks to preempt state legislation by imposing a nationwide cap on non-economic damages awards in medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, and prescription drug negligence cases. The Act further seeks to preempt state legislation on issues such as: the statute of limitations on filing these cases, rules of joint and several liability, and introducing evidence regarding medical bills in these cases. At every possible turn, the "Protecting Access to Care Act" displaces state law with federally imposed regulations. This is a betrayal of core conservative ideology.

Beyond this hypocrisy, however, it is a simple fact that tort reform legislation does not work. Statistics from every state that has attempted tort reform efforts for the past 50 years prove that capping non-economic damages do not reduce physicians' malpractice insurance premiums, reduce the cost of medical care, or lead to an increase in doctors within a given state. Legislation of this sort has one effect: padding malpractice insurers' pockets with extra money.

Looking at Illinois as an example is extremely telling. In 2005 the llinois legislature voted to cap non-economic losses in medical malpractice actions at $500,000.00. Between 2005 and when the legislation was struck down as unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2010, medical liability insurers such as ISMIE reported record profits. Notably, these insurers did NOT reduce their physicians' malpractice premiums during this time. Instead, insurers such as ISMIE routinely petitioned the Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Responsibility to raise physicians' malpractice premiums during the very same time they were recording record high profits.

Understanding that tort reform actually violates conservative principles, and further understanding that it does not and has never achieved its stated goals, is vital to opposing it. The simple reality of the civil justice system is that citizens sit on juries and police lawsuits where they believe medical providers are not negligent. You are the watchdogs that award damages in cases of malpractice and deny damages in cases where a physician acted appropriately. Do not divest yourself of power in favor of padding an insurance company's pockets.

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