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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Salt Lake Tribune Tells the Truth About Tort Reform

4 comments

With all due respect to a fine city and state, Salt Lake City, Utah would never be on anyone’s top ten list of the most injury victim friendly cities in the country. This is, traditionally, Republican county, the home of Senator Orrin Hatch (who, by the way, is a pro-insurance, anti-victim Republican, pushing medical malpractice reform as part of a package to reform our health care system). The state has already pushed through a package of state reforms.

Yet, despite its conservative slant, the Salt Lake Tribune, yesterday, called Hatch to task for his support of Medical Malpractice reform. Hatch claims that, over a ten year period, medical malpractice reforms "could" save the federal budget approximately $41 billion in health care expense and increase tax revenues another $13 billion. He gets these estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and makes the savings sound attractive. What he fails to mention is that the same office, the CBO, estimates the country’s health care savings to be only one-half of one percent.

Cynics might argue that any savings in health care is a good thing, but, at what cost? The article correctly and succinctly points out the following:

doctors and hospitals regularly kill people through their negligence. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies reported, "Based on the findings of one major study, medical errors kill some 44,000 people in U.S. hospitals each year. Another study puts the number much higher, at 98,000. Even using the lower estimate, more people die from medical mistakes each year than from highway accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS."

If you just casually read the quoted material, please read it again. The reason that there are medical malpractice suits is that doctors, nurses and hospital staff members make a significant amount of mistakes, and these mistakes cause serious injury, disability and death to real citizens. These victims then become part of the health care system, needing quality health care denied to them as "two-time" victims. "Two-time", you ask? Yes, first they are victimized by the hospital, doctor or health care professional, then they are victimized by tort reform, which provides a capped, inadequate, limit on compensation. Who must now pick up the bill, instead of the private insurance company that insured the perpetrator? The taxpayer, of course!

The alternate argument for federal reform is that it will reduce unnecessary medical tests. The CBO and the article report that there is little, if any, evidence that defensive medicine even exists. And what of the cost of malpractice insurance, itself? Again, the article opines that the process could and should be reformed "without denying people who have been injured or killed their day in court and just compensation".

As I indicated, many states, including Utah, already have tort reform. Utah has a non-economic damage cap of $480,000 and other onerous reforms. Do they save money? I suppose, but at what cost? If you shift the health care burden from the private sector to the taxpayer without producing tax revenue, how does that save the stem money? If you deprive the injured and disabled the treatment they need, you will increase the cost of their aftercare (they will get sicker) and you will (according to the article), most likely, also increase mortality.

Finally, if you reduce accountability in the system, you will, undoubtedly, increase medical malpractice incident frequency. Do you want to accomplish health care reform on the backs of the injured, disabled, maimed and deceased? If you did, could you sleep at night? Lawsuit Financial is, steadfastly, pro-justice. We believe that health care reform is absolutely necessary for the general well-being of all of our citizens. All of our citizens should have access to affordable health care. We also believe that doctors, hospitals, health care workers, drunk drivers, polluters, mis-managers, mis-labelers, defective product manufacturers, faulty constructors, and their ilk should be held fully accountable to all members of the public for their negligent and/or criminal actions. The victims, who have already paid dearly, at the cost of their good health, and, in many instances, their lives, should not be made victims a second time. We, as a just and fair nation of laws, should not tolerate such a notion.

4 Comments

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  1. Facebook User says:
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    Mark: Excellent points. It is unfortunate that those in favor of tort reform are usually those who have had a blessed life; being fortunate to have been spared tragedy striking their life.

    The CBO report indicates, at least by a study they quickly want to discard, that 0.2% more people will be killed or injured as a result of ANY tort reform. I do not know how tort reform supporters can be so quick to save insurance companies and other corporations money while being willing to increase the numbers of their brethren who are maimed or killed by negligence.

    I tell my pro-tort refom friends to try and imagine its their wife, their husband, their child…and then put a price on their life.

  2. Bret Hanna says:
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    Kudos to my hometown newspaper for this editorial. One correction, however – the Trib is not known for its conservative bent. That dubious honor goes to its primary competitor, the LDS church owned Deseret Morning News.

  3. Mark Bello says:
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    Bret: Profound apologies to the Trib for confusing them with a conservative rag. My real point was that Salt Lake City and Utah slant, in general, to the conservative side.

  4. Mark Bello says:
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    John: Thanks for the additional stats. Yes, this is, to me as well, the most troubling aspect of the debate. These percentages and numbers are measured in human suffering and human life. If, instead of saying “this percent” or “that percent” or a “savings of x billion or y billion”, they said: “look to your left, look to your right, someone you love will be disabled, maimed or killed by a medical mistake”, maybe these so-called supporters of tort reform would get the message. As it is, nobody “gets it” unless and until it happens to them or someone they love.