Why Medical Malpractice “Reforms” Hurt Patients and Benefit Insurance Companies
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on June 21st, 2013
Supporters of medical malpractice reform have for years pointed to huge court verdicts to plaintiffs and rising insurance rates for doctors as two prime reasons for why such reforms are needed.
The problem with those claims, though, is that they are just not true. Yet these lies and innuendo continue because those are the messages being communicated by insurance companies and their lackeys.
A new report in the journal, CHEST, the official publication of the American College of Chest Physicians in Northbrook, Ill., discusses “Five Myths of Medical Malpractice” which help to unravel some of those lies and misconceptions.
“There are a bunch of myths about the medical malpractice system and how it operates,” David A. Hyman M.D., who co-authored the study, told MyPhillyLawyer. Hyman, who is also a law professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, said that “those myths make it much harder for us to take a real look at the system and how it really works.”
Medical malpractice verdicts, especially the highly-publicized large verdicts which make the news headlines, are often compared to winning the lottery by misinformed people, said Hyman. “This is not a lottery you want to win,” he said, because such award verdicts are received by victims who have been very seriously injured in horrible incidents that often leave them unable to lead normal lives.
“Newspapers tend to pick big cases” to highlight, he said, yet in real terms, “the legal system doesn’t do a very good job of compensating people for their injuries” when there are artificial caps placed on verdicts by medical malpractice “reforms.”
In Texas in 2003, a legislative “reform” movement initiated damage caps in medical malpractice cases that limit damages for pain and suffering to $250,000. That means that no matter how horrific the injuries are for a patient, no matter their age, no matter how hugely their lives are changed by their injuries, all they can receive at most for pain and suffering is $250,000.
If that was you or someone in your family, would that be enough if you could no longer hold your children, take them for a walk, ride a bicycle, enjoy a game of golf or do any of the other activities we can take for granted?
Of course not.
Yet that’s the reality today of such “reform” movements, which continue to spread to other states around the nation.
Instead, argues Hyman, what we should be looking for are ways of improving the health care system so that doctors, nurses and hospitals are given “incentives for quality care rather than punishments for injuries” to their patients. “If a patient doesn’t get injured by a procedure or treatment, that’s a good outcome.”
But that’s sadly not how the system looks at the problem. Instead of protecting patients from bad outcomes in the medical system, the system is seeking to limit the very recourse patients have to pursue when they are grievously injured by a medical mistake.
Under the current system, there are no incentives for doctors to improve care, said Hyman. “It’s not just about the money. It’s also that a patient suffered a bad outcome and it shouldn’t have happened.”
Last weekend, attorney Tom Kline was a guest on MyPhillyLawyer’s Court Radio program and discussed these same kinds of issues.
The false and misleading medical malpractice reform movement is one that we here at MyPhillyLawyer are passionate about in our opposition and disgust. So-called reform isn’t about making things right for patients. It’s simply about making things less expensive for insurance companies, doctors and the rest of the medical profession.
In a world of true justice, there is no need to further limit an injured parties’ rights to full , fair and just compensation.
To the general public, to our clients, to anyone who is hurt by a medical error, we remind you all that such “reforms” are always something that are instigated by the insurance industry because they are the ones who profit the most from limits on medical malpractice payouts. Doctors often go along for the ride and drink the Kool-Aid because they think they will see lower insurance premiums that are teasingly touted by the insurance companies.
The problem, according to Hyman’s study, is that the so-called reforms don’t end up cutting doctor’s premiums at all, which means the whole reform effort is shenanigans from top to bottom. Adding insult to injury, the insurance companies go on to support politicians who support their position, so the proposed medical malpractice “reforms” find themselves on the agendas of state and national leaders, without any thought to how they affect the regular citizens who are suffering from injuries caused by medical errors.
Just how bad is it getting?
In Florida today, a minor only has until their 8th birthday to bring a medical malpractice case under a shortened statute of limitations. So if the child’s parents aren’t legally savvy and didn’t file a lawsuit on behalf of their child, that minor can’t later file on his or her own when they turn 18 years old. In Pennsylvania today, that couldn’t happen, because minors can take such actions until they are 20 years old. Insurance companies and doctors would love to see that kind of limitation here in Pennsylvania.
Medical malpractice reform is for insurance companies, not for people who suffer pain and injuries. Hyman’s article shows through facts and research that most verdicts are not the huge runaway verdicts that are touted on front pages of newspapers. And even when huge verdicts do occur, they are usually amended downward by judges and courts. The idea that this is a common problem is just propaganda perpetuated by the insurance industry. Statistics show it doesn’t happen as often as touted, but that’s what they use to convince the public and legislatures that the problem exists.
Insurance companies wrongly make these sweeping charges to deprive people who have suffered of their rights and just rewards. It’s time that people start hearing the truth and learning how such “reforms” actually hurt them and their families.
Patients and their families must be vigilant about the medical care they receive so they know what is being done for a patient’s care every step of the way. But at the same time, patients and families aren’t doctors and they can’t know every question to ask.
That’s where skilled, expert, compassionate and thorough legal representation is needed by patients and their families who have been harmed by medical errors or omissions during their treatment. These kinds of cases happen on a regular basis, but they can be fought by legal teams that are prepared to battle for their clients’ rights all along the way to a fair settlement or to a just verdict.
We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a medical malpractice or related case anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.
Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.
When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.