Putting the Tort on Tort Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the House of Representatives prepares to vote Sunday on a package that Democrats say will make health care more affordable, critics insist the "big government takeover of health care" is not only unwarranted, but that a part of the solution is so obvious it’s a crime Democrats failed to embrace it.

It’s called tort reform, or putting the brakes on junk lawsuits. If doctors and hospitals don’t need to worry about defending themselves against baseless malpractice lawsuits, they’ll stop ordering needless, duplicative tests and halt the practice of defensive medicine, Republican congressional leaders say. It’s an easy and necessary way to bring down costs for all Americans, they say.

The problem is, Ohio has already taken that step, as have many other states. Yet five years after a difficult but successful fight in Columbus to pass tort reform, health-care costs in the state have not gone down. And health policy analysts say it may not be possible to say whether costs would have spiked even higher had Ohio not passed lawsuit reform.

Costs climbed even after the legislature limited the size of jury verdicts for pain and suffering to $250,000 except in catastrophic cases, restricted punitive damages, and made it tougher to take a case to trial. In 2004, the year Ohio passed lawsuit liability reform, average premiums for employer-based family health plans were $9,590, according to data from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. By 2008, average family premiums were $11,425.

This means that four years after the state passed tort reform, health insurance for Ohio families in employer plans had gone up by 19 percent.

TortReformToon So Ohio has passed tort reform yet hasn’t see any benefits from screwing patients screwed by malpractice.

Things look a little bit better in Texas where tort reform has brought in doctor after doctor however Texas still has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country, sitting at a pretty 25.2%. Medicaid and Medicare account for 23.7% of the insured in Texas.

On top of that, Texas is ranked 17 in the US on average health care growth (9.2%)—above the 8.6% average. Thankfully, Ohio is under the average at 8.1% annual growth.

So, I guess tort reform really isn’t that big of a game changer unlike what Republicans have been touting for the past decade.

H/t Paddy

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