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Medical malpractice tort reform: A remedy for 'fairness'

Trib Live, July 9, 2017

By: Tribune-Review

While repeal-and-replace health care legislation sputters and stalls in the U.S. Senate, the House has advanced a medical tort-reform bill that could, by one estimate, save taxpayers at least $50 billion over 10 years.

The Protecting Access to Care Act passed by a precariously slim margin. It now faces an uphill battle in the Senate. The legislation caps the gray area of medical malpractice lawsuits — noneconomic damages — at $250,000. Injured parties would still receive full compensation for measurable, economic harm, such as medical expenses and lost wages.

Of course, the legal lobby is not going to sit still for legislation that limits these lawsuits. Democrat sympathizers already are bemoaning the injustice to mothers and children, who may not necessarily face economic losses such as lost wages.

But “fairness” is elusive when punitive damages are, at best, speculative and subjective — if not inconsistent.

Back in 2008, a comprehensive study by the Harvard School of Public Health found medical liability costs totaled $56 billion (or 2.4 percent) of all U.S. health care spending, according to The Heritage Foundation. Other studies show medical liability costs may account for up to 10 percent of all U.S. health care expenditures, Heritage reports.

Lawmakers who say they're committed to addressing “affordable” health care need to stop dancing around malpractice tort reform and address what's grown into a significant, if not inordinate, cost driver.