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Apologists for irresponsibility may hijack health care debate

August 19, 2009 - Mike Maneval
As the health care debate simmers on, the threat still lingers that the final legislation will contain a provision that not only fails to curtail the escalating costs of health care or improve its availability, but that undermines the rights of consumers.

Republican U.S. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa said in an interview by National Review Online that "tort reform" is one of four "make-or-break" issues for him as the health care package continues to be developed.

"Tort reform," when discussed in the context of health care, is focused on medical malpractice litigation and is a euphemism for rewarding medical professionals who seriously injure a patient by restraining the traditional role of civil litigation in correcting malfeasance.

It also doesn't solve the problem of out-of-control costs - according to the Center for American Progess, of the litigation filed in America alleging medical malpractice, .9 percent of the cases result in a verdict for the plaintiff. That's nine-tenths of a percentage point that result in ANY verdict favoring the plaintiff, regardless of the size of damages for which a jury or judge finds. Since 2004, at least 22 states have passed their own caps on monetary awards for "pain and suffering," according to Libby Perl of the Century Foundation, and yet consumers in these states have not seen the cost of health care even slow down in its rapid climb.

So if "tort reform' doesn't impede the out-of-control price-gouging, what does it impede? Accountability. Caps on damages in civil litigation reduce the accountability of professionals for their harmful actions.


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