February 23rd, 2010
04:57 PM ET
12 years ago

Doctors push for malpractice reform

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/23/art.bodocs0223.gi.jpg caption="The American Medical Association and some 75 other doctors' groups have sent a letter to President Obama about medical malpractice reform."]
Washington (CNN) - Two days before the White House health care summit, the American Medical Association and some 75 other doctors' groups are focusing on one battle: malpractice reform.

In a letter to the president obtained by CNN Radio, the organizations imply that if President Obama is serious about working across party lines then malpractice or tort reform is the way to do it.

"A bipartisan agreement [on malpractice reform] would send an important signal… that Democrats and Republicans alike are willing to put aside partisanship to control costs and improve patient care," the letter states.

The physicians' groups who sent the letter range from the AMA and American Academy of Pediatrics to the Society for Vascular Surgery.

Malpractice reform is a top Republican priority, but Democrats have been resistant and question if the idea would cut health care costs. In their letter, the doctors point to a Congressional Budget Office conclusion that generally some forms of tort reform could reduce costs.

The missive is also found deep within the American Medical Association website.

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Filed under: Health care
soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. Dan

    So, what does this tort reform look like? We want to reduce overhead for good doctors, preserve reasonable compensation for those who are wronged, and preserve (or really create) serious disincentives for medical mistakes. How does one do all this in practice?

    February 23, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  2. David

    What this article doesn't state is the CBO already produced an estimate on how much tort reform will save. It's 50 billion $$ over ten years. That's 5 billion per year. My GOP congressman used the numbers in virtual town halls last fall. What he didn't mention is we spend over 2 trillion dollars per year on health insurance so tort reform would result in a 0.25% savings. If I spend 10,000 per year on health insurance, that saves me $25.00...or two movie tickets with no popcorn. The math just doesn't support this as the solution to health care costs.

    While I like the idea of tort reform, the implementation is to cap awards to an arbitrary maximum of $250,000. It's a simple but fairly lousy implementation of what should be a good idea. If some doctor screws up and I loose my eye sight for example, the $250,000 maximum award doesn't even come close to compensating me for the mistake. With all the smart people in this country (some in Washington D.C. too), I think we can come up with a better way of solving the malpractice problem and still save money too.

    February 23, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  3. Marty, FL

    Tort reform is already in the Senate Health Bill, and Republican senators still voted against it (see Section 6801).

    Perhaps these doctors should take their concerns for malpractice reform to the GOP opposition.

    Mainstream media really needs to start reporting the facts.

    February 23, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  4. Deb

    I'm with richard on this one: the medical professionals know who the docs are who work 'under the influence' (my uncle was killed by a drunken doc who gave him the wrong meds); they know who the surgeons are who have amputated the wrong limbs or removed the wrong organs a few too many times; they know who is just flat out incompetent.

    I used to work in a large hospital, and we all knew which doctors to request if a family member was ill or injured, and which ones to avoid at all costs.

    I'd be much more in favor of tort reform, if the medical profession would heal itself first.

    February 23, 2010 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  5. Four and The Door

    Good luck AMA with the tort reform from this administration. Attorney groups are some of Obama's biggest supporters. Never mind what's best for Americans...it aint happenin. You might as well try and convince Obama to do something that the unions don't want.

    February 23, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  6. dr quack

    1 harvard school of public heath examined state s that did tort reform vs those that did not and found NO difference in insure increases.dr were not running to states thst had tort reform,nor running from states that didn't.the ONLY difference was that thosue seriously injured by quack got less money.remeber the dr is NOT the victim,the victim is he patient.
    2 one thing clinton proposed bak in 93 was allowing people to see the dr malpractice history, the ama was against that ,50% of malpractice cases are against the same 5% of dr's,th4 ama just let them go from state after state.
    3 the republican tort says AFTER you been found guilty of malpractice we will limit the award t the VICTIM,guess what he was found guilty his insurance is going up.if you file a claim with your insurance company and they dont have ot pay a dime ,they will still raise your rates.
    4 some idiot brought up healthcare across state lines.you buy it form another state,and they dont pay.who do yo file a a complaint with,the insurance commission in another state,woo that will work great.any company can sell insurance in any state as long as hey show they are financially SOLVENT and post a bond in advent they go out of busines.this ws tried with credit cards and no we have cards with 80% rates,why because they all moved t a state with NO limits on rates. the insurace wll move to a state with NO consumer protection.

    February 23, 2010 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  7. DAW, NC

    I think if you look at the cost of malpractice insurance in relationship to the total cost of health care it is not that much. A red herring so to say to avoid dealing with the issues. We can not get the MD's to write legible and if I remember that little change alone would reduce medical mistakes dramatically and reduce the need to sue also. Republicans always like to blame some group for a problem rather than look at it in its entirety. the old scare technique again.

    February 23, 2010 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  8. jeff jackson, alabama

    No tort reform has been a major cause of the rise in
    health insurance for over 25 years. But you have to
    fight the thieving lawyers in congress to pass it.
    Pass tort reform and open the borders between
    the states for insurance companies to compete
    ..........PEOPLE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 23, 2010 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  9. Derek S

    Lawyers cause more than the deceptive 2% of health care costs. That's just the malpractice awards. The cap is just on caps on pain. Nobody, not even the GOP, is caping future medical expenses or lost wages.

    If Obama wanted to really lower costs, he'd say that the government would cover malpractice losses, like future medical expenses in return for good faith effort in health care – that is, don't test for rare conditions but don't allow lawsuits. Malpractice would only be allowed if the nurse was drunk. That would be too much of a shocker for lawyers.

    February 23, 2010 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  10. Obama the Liar

    The obama will never pass tort reforn, along with ACORN and the SEIU that's a major cash cow for him.

    February 23, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  11. al in memphis

    Here's real tort reform– Record all medical procedures and if the doctor was at fault - they pay. If the doctor was not at fault, the attorney who brings the frivolous lawsuit pays.

    February 23, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  12. Stephanie

    What's wrong with the 47 million un-insured citizens, be place on a program just like the Republicans & Democrats. Then we will see who is in control.

    February 23, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |

    The AMA is as corrupt as Congress and just as dishonest.

    Reform? Physicians, heal thyselves first!

    February 23, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  14. Andy Batson

    If med mal cost were the real problem and tort reform was the cure then why is the cost of healthcare in Louisiana not cheaper than the rest of the Nation? We have the toughest medical mal "tort reform" in the Country. The docs still protect the incompetent drug addicted, alcoholhic brethren and still no relief. Believe it if you want but, closing the doors to the court house are not going to solve the cost problem. The lawyers are tougher on the bad lawyers than the docs are on the bad docs! Go figure. Another red herring for republicans.

    February 23, 2010 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  15. Pragmatic

    Malpractice reform has been tried in Texas for the past few years: there was no savings for either doctors and their insurance or for those buying insurance. John Murtha died because his surgeons nicked his intestine: so you just say to the family " sorry – mistakes were made....
    and go on your merry way? Doctors need to be seen policing their own – not defending the hackers who cut off the wrong leg, wrong breast or take the healthy kidney.

    February 23, 2010 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |

    Tort reform is not the answer. In fact, it would solve little. Juries rarely give out huge awards and when they do, an appeals court lowers the amount significantly. Med mal cases are very difficult to prove and more often than not, are found in the providers favor. But if that Dr. made a huge mistake, with devastating consequences, shouldn't they be held accountable? Amputating the wrong limb? Mistaken diagnosis of breast cancer leading to mastectomies? Killing patients with the wrong medication? Who is willing to give up their right to hold these providers accountable?

    February 23, 2010 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  17. Chandler

    Tort Reform would help, but only in a very limited way. It is only 1% of total costs right now.

    Sooooo if the GOP takes the AMA's recommendations about Tort Reform, will they also take the AMA's recommendation to PASS HEALTH CARE REFORM? If they respect their opinion, they should respect all of it!

    February 23, 2010 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  18. gg

    In California, we've had so-called medical malpractice tort reform since the 1970s. In fact, as another commentor noted, if you lose an eye, or both eyes, after your medical costs and potential loss of earning are covered, for your lifetime blindness in terms of pain and suffering, you can receive no more than $250,000.00. The multi-billion dollar insurance companies think this is a very good thing. The blind victim of a doctor's negligence does not. Reasonable reforms are appropriate. Increasing the profits of insurance companies at the expense of injured victims if not appropriate. The Republicans, of course, are only interested in political symbolism and their proposal are detrimental to the well being of the American people.

    February 23, 2010 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  19. Chuck Anaheim, Ca

    And you think doctors will actually lower their fees to reflect waht they might save with tort reform? Right! So what they are looking for is a free pass when they perform a surgey to remove right leg that has a problem and end up taking off your left leg instead.

    February 23, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  20. Marty, FL

    Purchasing insurance over state lines is also in the Senate Health Bill (see Section 1333), along with tort reform that the GOP voted against.

    Again, please report facts, MSM. Perhaps also include how tort reform is another trickle-down economics that savings at the top by doctors & insurance will somehow extend its way to patients...

    Far too often, Americans have seen those savings at the top kept as additional profits instead of extending it to the consumer.

    February 23, 2010 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  21. countrydoc

    The AMA does not represent ordinary physicians, but at least on this issue there is agreement.

    To the issue of whether tort reform will actually reduce health care costs, I would say that it will but it will take a while. Doctors have been trained for so long to practice ultra-defensively that this mindset has really taken hold. It will take the next generation of doctors to change actual practice patterns. There also needs to be establishment of safe havens of practice, where if following accepted protocols for care can be documented, then protection from suits related to adverse outcomes is given. I would say that this is all the more reason to act now.

    February 23, 2010 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  22. hap

    I think we need to cap insurance profits. Why is it we would even consider limiting a victums rights before we take a real hard look at who's making how much off our misfortune? I didn't hear about any insurance companies that were hurting during the last crisis, AIG doesn't count they made bad investments their problems were not related to claims.
    Another idea is to make hospitals not for profit orginazations, like they were before they became mega "health systems".
    One more idea comes from the legal profession, make Doctors do probono work to pay back student loans, or to offset their taxes.
    None of these ideas cost the taxpayers much, doctors student loans and taxes probably would pale next to 950 billion.

    February 23, 2010 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  23. jp,michigan

    TORT reform is the best cost saver to the American puablic. Anxiously waiting to see who offers it and who will except it. If President and democratic members on the hill do no then they are for health-cost increases, by way of making lawyers happy.

    February 23, 2010 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  24. doug

    Any hard cap on malpractice settlements is wrong. Sure, frivolous cases exist, but so do hack doctors who shouldn't be practicing. NO ONE can tell me that Michael Jackson's doctor (the one who killed him) should be responsible for only $250K worth of damages. Also, let's not forget that JUDGES and JURIES (we the people) are the ones who decide if plaintiffs and their lawyers get the amount of money that they're suing for.

    February 23, 2010 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  25. R. Williams

    Tort reform won't change insurance premiums for doctors or patients. A number of states already have tort reform, and insurance rates are jumping like crazy. A study commissioned by the state of Texas found insurance rates fluctuated with stock market fluctuations, with malpractice suits not appearing to affect rates.

    February 23, 2010 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
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