Tort Reform Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Tort Reform

President Bush came into the White House with a history as a 'tort reformer.' True to his record, the President backed a 'tort reform' bill last year that was passed by the House of Representatives but floundered in a Democratic controlled Senate. The President has recently renewed his call for the legislature to approve a tort reform bill that relates mainly to medical malpractice. It remains to be seen whether President Bush is successful in getting his proposals approved this time around as debate still rages among the supporters and opponents of the reform bill. This paper looks at the pros and cons of the issue and includes the following:

summary of the proposed public policy on tort reform

The impact of the policy (who shall be affected?)

The lobbying efforts in favor of and against the tort reforms

Summary

The present tort reform proposal is restricted to medical malpractices. However, more sweeping tort reforms could be in the offing if the first part of the reforms is successfully passed into law. A summary of the proposed public policy announced by the White House is as under:

President Bush believes that by passing the proposed Medical Liability Reforms the U.S. Congress would "protect America's patients, doctors, and hospitals from the staggering costs of out-of-control lawsuits" and make health care more "affordable and accessible for all Americans." He has also suggested that the reforms would "by making the medical liability system more stable and predictable" increase "patient safety by reducing the disincentives for reporting medical errors and complications." ("President calls for..." White House Press Release)

The following specific steps have been proposed as part of the reform policy:

Allow injured patients quicker, unlimited compensation for their economic losses, including provisions for unpaid services like care for children or parents

Cap non-economic damages at $250,000

Cap punitive damages at two times economic damages or $250,000, whichever is greater

Provide for payments of judgments over time rather than in a single lump sum

Establish limits on how long cases can be brought after an event

Notify injuries if a plaintiff has other sources of reimbursement for an injury

Provide that defendants pay judgments in proportion to their fault

The government believes that implementation of these measures can reduce Federal government costs by at least $28 billion per year and reduce health care costs for all Americans by $60 billion or more, besides improving access to quality health care.

The other declared aim of the "Medical Liability Reforms" is to remove barriers such as fear of litigation to good-faith efforts to improve quality and safety of medical services by health professionals. The reforms would enable freer sharing of information about quality problems and medical errors that would result in fewer errors and complications and improve quality of health care. (Ibid.)

Impact of the Proposed Policy

The people and groups that are most likely to benefit from the new tort policy, if implemented, are the insurance companies, the doctors (in particular, neurologists and obstetricians), hospitals, nursing homes, pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers and health maintenance organization (HMOs). If the initial tort reforms in medical liabilities are succesfully passed and lead to further tort reforms in other areas such as asbestos litigation, the beneficiaries would include many large American corporations.

The obvious losers of the tort reform are the trial lawyers who typically receive a percentage of any money awarded in a malpractice lawsuit that could run into millions of dollars. The other losers would be the victims of medical malpractice who have been grievously harmed because of the strict caps on damages envisioned in the reform Act. According to the "Center for Justice and Democracy" caps on non-economic damages have a disproportionate effect on women who work inside the home, children, seniors or the poor and other low wage earners who are more likely to receive a greater percentage of their compensation in the form of non-economic damages if they are injured. ("H.R. 5: A Cruel Proposal..")

As for the lowering of health costs and insurance premiums, it is a contentious issue with both the opponents and supporters of the tort reforms holding widely divergent views. While the government contends that such reforms would reduce Federal government costs by at least $28…

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