Monday, June 26, 2006


An issue that many conservatives across the country love to latch onto is so-called "tort reform" as a way to curb medical malpractice lawsuits in this nation. They say that it is medical malpractice lawsuits that have driven up the costs of healthcare, though logically, it is clear what truly is driving up the costs of healthcare. When vast swaths of the American public have health insurance (which, the majority of Americans do, even though there are tens of millions without), doctors will of course increase their rates. They know they can charge higher fees, because the insurance companies will pay for it. Meanwhile, this squeezes out the poor who cannot afford healthcare, but are not poor enough to get Medicaid. (some 50 million people) The solution to this crisis in the nation would then be either to insure everyone, or at the very least regulate the fees doctors can charge, and regulate the way insurance companies do business. Ideally, insurance companies would simply be banned altogether, because they really are the reason for the high cost of healthcare, but we know that won't happen. Tort reform, or as my lovely friend entercenter calls it, "tort deform," is the ideal solution for conservatives. They get to cozy up to their base (insurance companies), and yet also demonize the opposition. (trial attorneys) They claim without numbers to back it up that the costs of medical malpratice suits are alone driving up the costs of healthcare, and the solution is to limit recoveries. Of course, this means that the little girl whos doctor left a scalpel in her body can only recover $350,000 for pain and suffering. Or, the tot who will be deformed for life because of a faulty delivery will get $350,000 for pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is inherently an intangible, impossible to measure, however, it seems beyond ludicrous to box everyone in together, no matter the injury. There will be individuals who will be harmed by such a bill. Entercenter's article about this all is written right here. The cost of medical malpractice insurance really stems from the cost of defending doctors in the lawsuits. The vast majority of verdicts are not in the million dollar range, but yet the vast majority of litigation is ungodly expensive. If the conservatives actually cared about "tort reform," in the vein of making medical malpractice insurance cheaper, they would hire more judges to unclog the dockets, and enact laws limiting the length of time available for discovery. (which is by far the most expensive aspect of a lawsuit) However, this would all involve thinking. And we all know how these people love to fight their never ending war on thought.

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