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Health Care And Tort Reform Essay

1649 words - 7 pages

Rising health care costs have caused a national crisis, and all agree we must embrace reform. President Obama has initiated his national health care plan in the hopes of decreasing some of the inflated costs. When attempting to resolve this issue, one must always address the root of the problem. A large portion of these inflationary costs stem from malpractice lawsuits, and so begins the debate for tort reform: legislation which would cut the costs of health care by reducing the risk of civil litigation and exposure to fraudulent claims (“What”). However, the real factor at hand and the real cause of the industry’s high costs does not come solely from the cost incurred from these lawsuits, but from over-expenditures on the part of doctors, who over-test and over-analyze so as to safeguard themselves from the threat of malpractice lawsuits. Thus, large public support exists for tort reform. While the proposed legislation enacted through tort reform could cut the costs of health care and positively transform the industry, it is ultimately unconstitutional and could not withstand judicial scrutiny.
The crisis centers around malpractice lawsuits. When patients can sue doctors and come away with unreasonable profits, doctors must invest great sums in insurance to cover these lawsuits; additionally, to avoid any claim of malpractice, they feel compelled to overanalyze routine ailments, often investing great sums of money to rule out rare afflictions (Studdert). The impact of these procedures spikes health care costs by as much as 30% (Kimbuende), putting affordable health care out of reach for many, while benefiting parties profiting from the excessive lawsuits. Tort reform aims to eliminate these extraneous costs through legislation that would shield doctors from the risk of excessive malpractice claims.
Tort reform could be enacted in a number of ways. The two most popular seem to be the capping of damages – limiting the rewards a victim of medical malpractice receives – and the limitation of a patient’s right to jury (Odom, “Health”). A number of other proposed actions exist, including procedural limitation on the ability to file claims and the idea called “loser pays” – forcing the loser of the case to pay for the other party’s costs in the trial. The practice of capping damages would reduce risk for doctors, as a lawsuit would no longer bankrupt them. Thus, they would not be forced to over-test and overspend. It would also create less incentive for patients to pursue claims they knew were undeserved (Odom). Many proponents of tort reform also advocate limiting patients’ rights to a trial by jury – specially designed “health courts” would preside over the cases instead (“Health”). Because of the trial by jury, as currently practiced in these cases, very often the actual reprimands and awards are subject to chance and the “sympathy vote” instead of facts. The same injury could grant a patient anywhere from...

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