This week, American Association for Justice (AAJ) President Anthony Tarricone published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer calling for increased awareness about safety and protecting patients as part of health care reform. Tarricone stated that our current health-care system is plagued with preventable medical errors that kill as many as 98,000 patients a year, at a cost of $29 billion annually. These numbers from the Institute of Medicine do not even include patients who are seriously injured by medical errors.
Despite the horrific numbers, reform opponents have seized on tort reform as their solution to America’s health-care problems. "This tort-reform fixation is a political crutch that the opponents of the health-care bills lean on time and time again to justify their efforts to derail reform, even when it takes away the rights of injured patients." Tarricone continued to argue that, "restricting the rights of injured patients when medical negligence is so common would be at odds with the obvious need for higher-quality health care."
In addition, the Congressional Budget Office has concluded that the most dramatic proposed changes to tort law would cut health-care costs by only one-half of one percent. Meanwhile, the CBO also found such measures could worsen care and patient outcomes. In this light, the savings would be paltry because medical negligence claims make up less than 1 percent of the nation’s civil caseload. And researchers at Harvard found that 97 percent of cases involved verifiable medical injuries, debunking the idea that many suits are "frivolous."
AAJ believes that health care reform should protect Americans, not use the legal rights of injured patients as bargaining chips. Go to www.98000reasons.org to learn more.