WASHINGTON, D.C. — Seven national consumer and health organizations announced today they have placed ads in opinion-leading Washington D.C. publications declaring strong opposition to any provisions in the health care bill that would limit the legal rights of patients injured by medical malpractice, including measures that would force them into unfair "alternative" legal systems. The ads run October 1, 2009.
The advertisements, on behalf of Alliance for Justice, Consumer Watchdog, Center for Justice & Democracy, National Consumers League, National Research Center for Women & Families, National Women’s Health Network and Public Citizen, point out that up to 98,000 people die every year from medical errors in U.S. hospitals. They state, "Congress should focus on improving patients safety and reducing deaths and injuries, not insulating negligent providers from accountability and saddling taxpayers with the cost… Health care reform cannot be accomplished by taking away the legal rights of patients who are injured through no fault of their own, or reducing the accountability of those who commit wrongdoing."
The current Senate Finance Committee health care bill contains language encouraging states to explore alternative litigation systems. Moreover, some conservative members of Congress have stated they will try to further limit the legal rights of patients with "caps" on compensation and other "tort reforms." In a September 22 letter to the Senate Finance Committee, the groups wrote "schemes that place undue burdens on injured patients, or require that cases be heard in informal settings, tilt the legal playing field heavily in favor of insurers that represent health care providers. These measures are fundamentally unfair to patients."
Joanne Doroshow, Executive Director of the Center for Justice & Democracy, said, "The arguments used to support liability restrictions are unfounded. Medical malpractice insurance claims and premiums have both been trending downward for years. Premiums and claims are each less than one percent of health care costs. The best way to reduce malpractice deaths, injuries, claims and lawsuits is to reduce medical malpractice."
"America is suffering from an epidemic of medical errors," said David Arkush, a program director at Public Citizen. "Reducing medical errors is not difficult, and it would save scores of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. If Congress wants to serve the American public rather than special interest groups like doctors and insurance companies, then it should focus on improving patient safety, not stripping patients of their legal rights."
"Innocent Americans injured by cost-cutting hospitals and negligent doctors should not be a political sacrifice in the quest for health care reform," said Carmen Balber, Washington Director for Consumer Watchdog. "State malpractice damage caps and other limits on liability for negligent health care providers have locked injured patients out of court, degraded the quality of health care and denied justice to too many families."
Click to view a copy of the ad.
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