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Law Prof: Tort Reform is “Red Herring” in Health Care Debate

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This afternoon, Anne Underwood, of the New York Times published an interview with Tom Baker, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law on the website’s Prescriptions Blog. Baker explains that tort reform is nothing more than a red herring and will not lower health care costs. An excerpt from the interview is below:

Q. A lot of people seem to have taken up the cause of tort reform. Why isn’t it included in the health care legislation pending on Capitol Hill?
A. Because it’s a red herring. It’s become a talking point for those who want to obstruct change. But [tort reform] doesn’t accomplish the goal of bringing down costs.

Q. You said the number of claims is relatively small. Is there a way to demonstrate that?
A. We have approximately the same number of claims today as in the late 1980s. Think about that. The cost of health care has doubled since then. The number of medical encounters between doctors and patients has gone up — and research shows a more or less constant rate of errors per hospitalizations. That means we have a declining rate of lawsuits relative to numbers of injuries.

Q. So the idea that there are lots of frivolous lawsuits is . . .
A. Ludicrous.

The whole interview is worth a read, as it debunks a whole slew of myths about health care and the civil justice system. AAJ has developed a primer on the role of medical negligence in the national health care debate, which can be viewed here: http://www.justice.org/resources/Medical_Negligence_Primer.pdf.

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    Very good point, hopefully people will read this article.