Still Need Tort Reform

The American Medical News did a nice piece on tort reform.  I highly recommend you take a look.  Here are the highlights:

  • The good news: California’s $250,000 noneconomic damages cap  was upheld by an appellate court in September 2011. West Virginia’s cap of the same amount was declared constitutional by the state’s high court in June 2011.
  • The bad news: In 2010, the Georgia Supreme Court found that state’s $350,000 cap unconstitutional, and the Illinois Supreme Court did the same with the Illinois cap of $500,000. Legal challenges are being waged in Missouri, Indiana and elsewhere.
  • The average expense to defend against a medical liability claim in 2010 was $47,158. That’s a 63% increase from 2001.
  • The average expense payments have increased by 43% since 2005.
  • About two in three claims against doctors were dropped, dismissed or withdrawn without payment in 2010, but expenses handling even those dead-end claims average $26,851.
  • Payments on claims have remained stable, but a small fraction account for a disproportionate share of those payments. Payouts of at least $1 million accounted for 34% of total payments — a figure the report said underscores the need for caps on noneconomic damages to contain health care costs and premiums.
  • Even with improvements in the market, the report shows that many states still have unacceptably high premiums. For example, premiums for obstetrician-gynecologists in some areas of New York hit $206,913 in 2011, a 41% increase from 2004.
  • On a national scale, 55% of premiums held steady in 2011, while 15% increased and 30% decreased. The trend of stable rates has held for six straight years.
  • Surgeons who were sued had a 7% higher rate of burnout and a 10% higher rate of experiencing symptoms of depression than those not sued during the two years examined, said a study in the November 2011 Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Obamacare has done nothing to really help this.  Debate all you want but without tort reform there can be no single payer system, no government healthcare system and no socialized healthcare in any manner.


Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  4 comments for “Still Need Tort Reform

  1. Greg Bagen
    February 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    States that have caps do not have lower premiums. States that regulate insurance companies do have lower premiums. No state that passed tort reform saw any meaningful reduction in premiums without insurance regulation. As to the defense costs, they are going up per case because there are less cases, and the defense attorneys get paid by the hour. The less cases, the more hours billed per case.

    • Doug Farrago
      February 8, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      Texas saw decreases in premiums. I will try to look up more but you have a good point. That is why they should limit the amount that lawyers make. They limit what we make as physicians.

      • Greg Bagen
        February 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm

        The thing is that they only want to limit what the patient’s lawyers earn, not what the insurance companies can spend fighting even the most egregious cases. As long as the carriers can charge whatever they want, and spend whatever they want, the incentive is to make the system ever more expensive, which hurts us all. Patients’ lawyers’ fees are set by each state, and they get paid only on successful cases. The system is so costly that no lawyer can survive if he or she is not extemely selective in the caes undertaken. And yet, even with that selectivity, the bias of juries in favor of health care providers results in a large number of meritorious cases being denied. The percentage of lost cases at trial is also skewed by the fact that the most solid caes settle at the last minute, after the expenses are at their peak, and only the ones that the insurance company expects to win go to verdict.

  2. big picture doc
    February 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Agree strongly that tort reform is needed, but again it is the private sector that is screwing you.

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