Medical Malpractice Math

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The following commentary by FTCR president Jamie Court, was broadcast on the Marketplace radio program on National Public Radio on Monday, March 14, 2005. Click here to listen to the audio of the commentary:
David Brown (Host) – The American Medical Association opened what it calls an “Advocacy Conference” in Washington today. Advocating what? Ask many doctors and you’ll hear horror stories about insurance premiums. President Bush has proposed a plan to cap malpractice awards. The idea is to rein in those rising insurance rates. Commentator and consumer activist Jamie Court says someone ought to check the math.

Jamie Court (Commentator) – When a doctor’s, hospital’s or drug company’s negligence seriously injures a patient, someone’s got to pay the medical bills and living expenses.

If it’s not the wrongdoer, then it’s likely gonna be the America taxpayer through programs like social security, disability and Medicaid. Call it a malpractice tax.

But the big lie the doctors lobby will spread this week is that the President’s malpractice proposal lets patients collect for their medical bills.

It just limits how much a patient recovers for their pain and suffering and how much their attorney can make on a percentage basis of that recovery.

In fact, it’ll choke off malpractice suits.

That’s exactly what’s happening in some states that have adopted Bush-type legal limits.

Right now seven out of ten attorneys in California turn away what they say are legitimate malpractice cases because they can’t afford to spend what it takes to try them AND still recover enough money to make it worth their while.

Moreover, Bush wants to disclose to juries all sources of possible payments to victims, including insurance policies and taxpayer-funded public assistance. That will kill off the possibility of injured patients getting attorneys AND increase the taxpayer’s bill.

A decade ago, the nation’s top expert at Harvard on medical malpractice estimated that it costs the health care system 80 billion dollars a year to treat hundreds of thousands of medical negligence injuries.

Today that cost could be double given medical inflation. And the people who’ll end up paying are you and me.

These days, the only house calls the AMA makes is to the House of Representatives. Congress should ask them how a profession of country-club Republicans have become socialists.

After all they want to socialize the cost of malfeasance for a medical-insurance-pharmaceutical complex that has made more profits than any other industry in America. Before we are forced to swallow this pill, maybe someone should look up the side effects.

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