January 28, 2010
NEW YORK – A major new analysis released today by Americans for Insurance Reform (AIR) finds that a recent claim by the insurance consulting firm Towers Perrin (now called Towers Watson) that the U.S. tort system costs $254.7 billion is highly exaggerated and misleading, based on unverifiable and flawed work, and is completely inappropriate for evaluating the U.S. tort system. Even with all of its flaws and padded numbers, the Towers Perrin report, 2009 Update on U.S. Tort Cost Trends, still finds that tort system costs are growing slower than medical inflation, that medical malpractice trends are completely stable, that the U.S. tort cost environment is “relatively benign,” and that costs are less today, compared to GDP, than they were in 1983.
AIR’s critique, Towers Perrin: “Grade F” For Fantastically Inflated “Tort Cost” Report, is co-written by actuary J. Robert Hunter, Director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), former Commissioner of Insurance for the State of Texas, and former Federal Insurance Administrator under Presidents Carter and Ford; and by Joanne Doroshow, Executive Director of the Center for Justice & Democracy.
Co-author J. Robert Hunter said, “It is really past time for Towers to stop publishing such flawed data year after year. The fact that they persist despite criticism after criticism shows a deep distain for fair and accurate presentation of facts.”
Joanne Doroshow said, “Even with all of its faults, which are extensive, the Towers Perrin report gives no credence whatsoever to any notion that tort costs are out of line, particularly medical malpractice costs. Policymakers and opinion leaders should be extremely wary of how this document is used, because it is routinely presented in a misleading manner by corporate lobbyists who seek to weaken the tort system and limit consumers’ legal rights against corporate wrongdoing, so-called ‘tort reform.’ Fear-mongering is typical, for example, as taxpayers are often misled to believe they are paying these inflated costs in the form of a ‘tort tax’ or ‘litigation tax.’ Yet the Towers Perrin report provides absolutely no support for such a contention, nor for the insurance industry’s ‘tort reform’ agenda.”
January 26, 2010
Tort law defines what a legal injury is and establishes liability. All tort reform limits the circumstances under which injured people may sue and limits how much a jury may award the injured.
Is tort reform good or bad? That depends on who benefits and who loses out. It benefits the insurance companies in a big way. It benefits for-profit hospitals and clinics. It hasn’t reduced our medical bills.
The big loser is the patient who is injured or killed by bad medical practice. Tort reform makes Florida’s health care system less safe and effective. It limits victims’ access to the courts and costs taxpayers money in order to care for injured victims. If you’re injured by bad medical practice, you will have a near-impossible time finding a lawyer who will represent you because of the 2004 Florida tort reform. It effectively gives bad doctors a license to kill.
January 25, 2010
The agenda presented by the pro-Insurance Industry comprises of three main points that are presented to the public as the magic bullets which will save the health care industry and help the consumer. The three points are: tort reform, cross border insurance, and tax credits. None of these are designed to help us–the tax payer consumers.
lowers doctors insurance bills, lowers pay outs by insurance companies, but not insurance premiums for people. The CBO and independent research has found tort issues are unfounded. Tort reform penalizes victims, and doesn’t do anything about the 98,000 people who die in hospitals each year as a result of preventable medical errors, costing the health care system $29 billion in excess costs. The dirty secret: Much of what can be identified as “defensive medicine” is motivated not by liability concerns but by the desire to generate more income.
Allowing residents to buy health insurance across state lines:It removes basic state mandated coverage, services states have found to be life saving and humane. Secondly, cheaper a-la-cart plans puts the patient at risk by excluding too many basic services, putting limits on treatments, even after paying monthly premiums, and hides those exclusions in small print legalise designed to be ambiguous in court challenges.
Granting tax credits for people who purchase health insurance on their own. The tax credits aren’t indexed for inflation, are only a small part (a third or quarter) of the total premium and still “spreads the wealth” using other peoples money to pay for health insurance.
January 22, 2010
Isn’t this precious? These people are in a airplane crash–the plane crash landed in the Hudson River–and AIG is playing hardball in paying their claims. Insurance companies have generally adopted the triple “D’ approach to claims: Deny, Delay and Defend. Do not be intimidated by this tactic–it quickly falls apart when legitimate claims are brought before juries.
In yet another P.R. coup for everyone’s favorite bailed-out insurance company, AIG balks at paying claims to passengers from the US Airways flight that miraculously landed in New York’s Hudson River last January. According to The New York Times, the firm tells passengers with medical bills to file claims with their own health insurers — assuming they have health insurance — and limits the number of therapy sessions for passengers traumatized by their brush with death to three.
January 17, 2010
I am tired of scapegoating lawyers in general, and trial lawyers in particular, and it is one reason why I now call myself a Reagan conservative rather than a Republican.
Health care now absorbs almost 20 percent of our gross domestic product, which creates a hidden and growing tax on the American consumer. However, the best that the Republican Party and other conservative groups can do is to promote tort reform as its principal response to the health care dilemma.
On the one hand, conservative groups bemoan national solutions to state, economic or business problems, and yet do not comprehend that national legislation to control state courts is anathema to the Constitution. It violates the Constitutional principle that rights not granted to the federal government have been reserved to the states, and it undermines the concept of federalism.
So-called “tort reform” will usurp the legal rights of citizens when access to the courts provides the only means of redress against a large and malevolent federal government and powerful business interests.
January 16, 2010
How are patients limited by tort reform?
The core of many tort reform bills is the limitation of non-economic damages. This includes compensation for pain and suffering. What happens when a malpractice victim faces no immediate economic damages? For example, what of elderly and young victims who are not employed? What of grieving families who face life without a loved one?
Charles and Shirley Ethier’s son was admitted to a San Francisco emergency room with a head laceration after being struck in the head with a surfboard. Despite the possibility of a serious head injury, the doctor who treated him failed to order a CT scan or even palpate the wound. Instead, the physician simply stitched him up and sent him home.
He wasn’t there for long. The Ethiers’ son had fractured his skull, and was suffering from extensive cerebral hemorrhaging. The sustained pressure on his brain eventually rendered him brain dead and he later died.
The jury quickly found for the Ethiers and awarded them $3 million in wrongful death damages — which the judge was forced to immediately reduce to $250,000, the amount allowed under MICRA for non-economic damages.
January 15, 2010
Looking around for Tort Reform articles, I came across this bog entry which rather simply sums up what the Tort Reform proponents wants us, the Public, to believe. Always remember that ultimately, it is the Juries who decide the amount of the damages an injured person should receive–No one else makes that initial decision.
I found this to be an excellent, simple break down of the position taken by Republicans and others who support tort deform:
“Let’s look at how a tort trial typically works. The injured party has a lawyer (you know, the “bad guy”). The doctor/corporation/defendant has a lawyer (or lawyers). There is a judge. And then there are twelve (sometimes six) ordinary citizens. – the jury.
The injured party’s lawyer has a chance to tell his client’s story. The lawyer(s) for the doctor/corporation/defendant has a chance to tell his(their) client’s side of the story.
The judge tells the jury what the rules they have to apply to the case are.
Then the jury makes a decision.
It is this last group of people the Republicans are really complaining about. They are the ones deciding whether to award money to the person who claims s/he was injured.
But to hear the Republicans tell the story, you would think that there is only one lawyer in the courtroom (the injured person’s lawyer), the judge is asleep, and the injured persons’s lawyer is sitting with the jurors as they deliberate, telling them what to do.”
January 11, 2010
The largest verdict awarded to a corporation last year was more than five times the size of the year’s largest product-liability verdict: a $300 million award against Philip Morris in a case involving a former smoker who developed cancer. The victim was awarded $56 million, with another $244 million in punitive damages.
So far there have been no reports of a call for a cap on jury awards in patent-infringement cases. Apparently juries are considered competent enough to register proper judgments in those disputes.