Healthcare is a hot topic in the political climate right now and there’s a lot of actions being taken in the United States House of Representatives that reflect changing views on the costs of healthcare and the role medical malpractice lawsuits have. Unfortunately for the American public, lawmakers are under the impression that lawsuits only serve to make healthcare more expensive.
A comprehensive new study shows, however, that medical malpractice lawsuits are not linked to soaring healthcare costs. In 2015, medical malpractice payouts were at an all-time low. Only one-tenth of one percent of all healthcare costs (0.1%) of healthcare costs come from medical malpractice lawsuits.
Detractors who say that the costs of medical liability insurance can also be assured that insurance for healthcare providers is also at a historic low, reaching levels lower than 2003 numbers with only 0.3% of healthcare costs being attributed to medical providers liability insurance.
As well, for how many individuals who suffer from medical malpractice annually, very few of them go on to sue doctors. Looking just at those who were killed by medical malpractice and avoidable errors, 44,000 to 400,000 people are killed a year from these kinds of mistakes. By contrast, an average of fewer than 13,000 malpractice payments a year have been made on behalf of doctors over the past quarter century, according to the study.
In other words, medical malpractice is insignificant to the overall costs of healthcare—and using health care costs as an argument against being able to hold doctors accountable for their mistakes is nothing more than empty rhetoric.
Current Legislation Aims to Take Advantage of Incorrect Perceptions
This isn’t stopping lawmakers, however, as conservative leaders are pushing for H.R. 1215, a bill that caps non-economic damages at $250,000, such as payments for severe pain and suffering someone might experience after a botched operation, regardless of many factors normally included in a lawsuit. The resolution is called “Protecting Access to Care Act” and is using the idea that medical malpractice is increasing the costs of medical care as the basis to strip Americans of their rights and give medical providers, manufacturers and companies the upper hand.
This bill will soon be voted on by the House but there are three other bills that have passed on to the Senate on their way to become law, including, H.R. 725, the “Innocent Party Protection Act”, H.R. 720, the “Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act”, H.R. 985, the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act”. H.R. 906, the “Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act,” was rolled together into H.R. 985.
The names of these bills are intentionally misleading, using names to make it seem like these legislators have their constituents’ needs at heart. In reality, it’s the deep pockets of medical companies and doctors that are the motivating factor. As well, these laws have unclear but intended consequences that very much go against what many of these legislators have been sent to Washington to represent—smaller federal government and more local and state control.
Paul Bland, executive director of Public Justice, and Public Justice staff attorney Leah Nicholls together wrote an article in The Hill underlining some of the consequences of these bills, noting that these bills would “would override and violate at least 18 state constitutions” as well as “override those states’ carefully crafted suite of laws” in states that already have laws to accomplish the policy goals of these bills.
Beyond treading on states’ rights, these bills take away individual freedoms and rights, especially in an age when deregulation is a popular topic. As more protections are removed from individual rights, class actions serve to keep those with more power in check. And yet, legislators who spout campaign slogans about preserving rights for individuals are pushing these bills.
One of the foundations of our country is the right to hold others accountable when we’ve been done wrong. These bills serve to break down individual and local rights in favor of corporate rights.
We urge you to call your representative in the House to tell them to vote NO on H.R. 1215 and your Senator to vote NO on H.R. 725, 720 and 985.