To believe certain politicians, one would think medical schools were shutting down and doctors were abandoning the profession to become Wal-Mart greeters. Some want to push for “tort reform” due to the looming “crisis.” This is remarkable in view of the facts. In 2016, according to one survey of doctor salaries, the lowest average compensation went to pediatricians, at $204,000 per year while those in orthopedics averaged $443,000.
In a recent news report, the editor of a trade publication that watches medical liability costs noted, “It’s a wonderful time for doctors looking for coverage, and it’s never been better for insurers.” But we will again be sold the line that frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits are responsible for the majority of healthcare cost increases.
If this “reform” occurs, it is likely that it will only end up making doctors and their insurance companies richer, while leaving average Americans injured by medical malpractice with no means to obtain compensation for those injuries. They want to lock-out injured patients from the courtroom to ensure negligent doctors exorbitant incomes are protected.
If the advocates of tort reform truly wanted to benefit patients, they would work to reduce patient harm. If patient harm were reduced, malpractice lawsuits would see an equivalent reduction. Most “tort reform” ignores patient injury, pretending that if they eliminate lawsuits, they “solve” the problem, but all the really do is leave injured patients without any right to redress for their injuries.
One example of this is the California damage cap on personal injury cases. The cap of $250,000 for noneconomic damages was perhaps adequate in 1975 when it was created, but now it is outdated, having been eroded by 40 years of inflation. Put another way, that $250,000 in 2016 dollars would only have been worth $55,000 in 1975.
Yet doctors and their insurers campaigned against any increase, spending $57 million to defeat the effort. This often leaves injured malpractice victims with few options for real compensation for their injuries.