As Congress continues to grapple with health care reform, many conservatives and lobbyists for the insurance industry have called for tort reform as a way to reduce the costs of health care. However, nearly every independent health economist and legal expert who has studied the issue has found that tort reform would have virtually no impact on health care costs. These findings come as no surprise to our Chicago wrongful death lawyers, who represent families that have lost their loved ones due to preventable medical errors, and who fight back against the powerful insurance lobby.
A recent article from the Washington Independent notes the “undercurrent” of complaints made by health insurance companies, hospitals and ideological conservatives that medical malpractice claims are out of control and a leading cause of rising health care cost. Yet, the leading economists and legal experts have found that malpractice liability costs “are a small fraction of the spiraling costs of the U.S. health care system, and that the medical errors that malpractice liability tries to prevent are themselves a huge cost — both to the injured patients and to the health care system as a whole.”
Why, then, do some politicians backed by the insurance lobby claim that medical malpractice lawsuits are out of control and are a main cause of rising health care costs? “It’s really just a distraction,” says Tom Baker, professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and author of “The Medical Malpractice Myth.” Professor Baker notes that “if you were to eliminate medical malpractice liability, even forgetting the negative consequences that would have for safety, accountability, and responsiveness, maybe we’d be talking about [a savings of] 1.5 percent of health care costs. So we’re not talking about real money.”
Another Harvard professor of Law and Public Health, Michelle Mello, agrees. “If you were to list the top five or ten things that you could do to bring down health care costs, [tort reform] would not be on the list.”
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