Tort Reform – A Busted Myth

March 2, 2015

tort reform definition

Tort Reform: A definition

Most of us who practice tort law on the victim’s side have been saying this for years only to be faced with deaf politician ears who, on behalf of their deep pocketed masters, continued to spew the myth of Tort Reform. It is time to face reality and stop actively hurting the victims of medical negligence and instead focus on ways by which to reduce the numbers of medical malpractice cases by providing incentives to medical providers to engage in safe and negligent free medical treatment.

The second greatest trick may be the insurance industry’s success in getting more than half the states to implement “tort reform.” That achievement was based on the promise that restricting victims’ ability to bring medical malpractice suits would improve healthcare and reduce its cost. Those myths have now been completely dispelled.

The last bubble to burst was that because doctors are fearful of getting sued, they practice “defensive medicine,” prescribing unnecessary and costly tests and procedures. That myth was dispatched by the recent publication of a major study in the New England Journal of Medicine. A team of five doctors and public health experts found that tort reform measures passed in three states – specifically designed to insulate emergency room doctors from lawsuits — did nothing to reduce the number of expensive tests and procedures those ER doctors prescribed.

This latest study follows numerous others that deflated other tort reform myths: that making it harder for victims to file medical malpractice lawsuits would reduce the number of “frivolous” suits that “clog the courts;” that imposing caps on the damages victims could receive would reign in “out of control” juries that were awarding lottery-size sums to plaintiffs; and that malpractice insurance premiums would fall, thereby reversing a doctor shortage caused by specialists “fleeing the profession.”

via On Tort Reform, It’s Time to Declare Victory and Withdraw – Forbes.

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Tort Reform – Study Shows Savings Are Mythical

September 22, 2014

Tort Reform

Tort Reform

The idea that Tort Reform was going to have any effect on the cost of American Health Care system has been shown time and time again to be nothing but a myth. Tort Reform has been, and continues to be an effort to prevent victims of medical negligence to seek reasonable compensation for their injuries and the cost of dealing with those injuries in the past, present and more importantly the future. It stands to reason that the Insurance Industry gains but limiting recoveries and even reducing verdicts–never mind that a verdict in favor of a plaintiff is by definition evidence that the case just tried was not frivolous!–after a jury has deliberated on the evidence presented.

Tort reform,” which is usually billed as the answer to “frivolous malpractice lawsuits,” has been a central plank in the Republican program for healthcare reform for decades.

The notion has lived on despite copious evidence that that the so-called defensive medicine practiced by doctors merely to stave off lawsuits accounts for, at best, 2% to 3% of U.S. healthcare costs. As for “frivolous lawsuits,” they’re a problem that exists mostly in the minds of conservatives and the medical establishment.

A new study led by Michael B. Rothberg of the Cleveland Clinic and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association aimed to measure how much defensive medicine there is, really, and how much it costs. The researchers’ conclusion is that defensive medicine accounts for about 2.9% of healthcare spending. In other words, out of the estimated $2.7-trillion U.S. healthcare bill, defensive medicine accounts for $78 billion.

As Aaron Carroll observes at the AcademyHealth blog, $78 billion is “not chump change … but it’s still a very small component of overall health care spending.” Any “tort reform” stringent enough to make that go away would likely create other costs, such as a rise in medical mistakes generated by the elimination of the oversight exercised by the court system.

Since it doesn’t appear that “tort reform” would have any effect on this spending, Carroll says, “there seems little reason to pursue it as a means to dramatically reduce health care spending in the United States.”

via New study shows that the savings from ‘tort reform’ are mythical – LA Times.

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Medical Malpractice – Feds Will Release Hospital Mistake Data

September 9, 2014

This is very important news. Releasing publicly and naming providers who commit easily preventable mistakes such as leaving a foreign object inside a patient after a surgery is done will go a long way in helping these Hospitals to improve their practices. The important thins to remember is that these are mistakes that are preventable and leads to patient death or further injuries and complications.

This is very different and distinct from an operation that does not lead to an expected result–medicine is an art and human body is a complicated machine and bad results may occur absent any sort of negligence.

Federal regulators are reversing course and will resume publicly releasing data on hospital mistakes, including when foreign objects are left in patients’ bodies or people get the wrong blood type.

USA TODAY reported last month that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services quietly stopped publicly reporting a host of life-threatening mistakes, after denying in 2013 that it would do so.

CMS says it will make this data on eight “hospital-acquired conditions” HACs available on its website.

“We are working to make it available as a public-use file for researchers and others who are interested in the data,” CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said in an e-mail. “It’s been requested, so we will make it available.”

via Feds reverse course, will release hospital mistake data.

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Medical Malpractice

July 20, 2014

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Tort Reform – Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Caps in Florida

March 14, 2014

Florida Supreme Court

Florida Supreme Court

In yesterday’s 5-2 decision striking down Florida’s cap on non-economic damages in wrongful death cases, the Supreme Court of Florida criticized in withering detail the arguments used by medical malpractice insurance lobbyists and organized medicine to push for caps and other “tort reforms.”

For all the physicians out there, please know that according to the Court, you have been lied to most of all.

Since the industry uses these same arguments to push for laws that limit compensation to sick and injured patients in every state – as well as in Congress – we thought we would take some time to list some highlights from this brutally honest Florida Supreme Court decision.

via ThePopTort: Florida Supreme Court to Med Mal Insurance Industry: Stop Lying.

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Medical Malpractice – Doctor Walks Out On Patient During Surgery

March 12, 2014

It’s unbelievable. A heart surgeon, who is practicing today, has a history of walking out on patients in the middle of open heart surgeries, according to a hospital administrator who filed a whistleblower lawsuit. The lawsuit follows a state report which found that a 72 year old patient is in a persistent vegetative state after the surgeon failed to close his chest cavity and told an unqualified physician assistant to finish the surgery. The doctor reportedly went out to lunch.

Allegations in the patient and whistleblower lawsuits point to alcohol abuse and repeated misconduct by the physician covered up by the hospital.

If ever there was a poster child for the need for patient safety reform, we think it is Dr. Pervaiz Chaudhry and Community Regional Medical Center.

via Terrifying | Consumer Watchdog.

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Medical Malpractice – Careless Doctors Allowed to Continue Practice

August 23, 2013

The research shows:

• Doctors disciplined or banned by hospitals often keep clean licenses: From 2001 to 2011, nearly 6,000 doctors had their clinical privileges restricted or taken away by hospitals and other medical institutions for misconduct involving patient care. But 52% — more than 3,000 doctors — never were fined or hit with a license restriction, suspension or revocation by a state medical board.

• Even the most severe misconduct goes unpunished: Nearly 250 of the doctors sanctioned by health care institutions were cited as an “immediate threat to health and safety,” yet their licenses still were not restricted or taken away. About 900 were cited for substandard care, negligence, incompetence or malpractice — and kept practicing with no licensure action.

• Doctors with the worst malpractice records keep treating patients: Among the nearly 100,000 doctors who made payments to resolve malpractice claims from 2001 to 2011, roughly 800 were responsible for 10% of all the dollars paid and their total payouts averaged about $5.2 million per doctor. Yet fewer than one in five faced any sort of licensure action by their state medical boards.

The numbers raise red flags for several experts in physician oversight, including David Swankin, head of the Citizen Advocacy Center, which works to make state medical boards more effective.”Medical boards are not like health departments that go out to see if a restaurant is clean; they’re totally reactive, because they rely on these mandatory reports — and they’re supposed to act on them,” Swankin says.

via Thousands of doctors practicing despite errors, misconduct.

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