NEW YORK - January 20 - President Bush will use tonights State of the Union speech to call for limiting the legal rights of patients injured by medical malpractice, saying such laws will lower health care costs. This is a blatant misrepresentation of facts.
Just last week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that malpractice costs account for less than 2 percent of [health care] spending." Congressional Budget Office, Limiting Tort Liability for Medical Malpractice (Jan. 8, 2004) (emphasis added). Moreover, CBO found that caps on damage awards, such as advocated by Bush, would make essentially no difference in health care costs or health insurance premiums: a bill with caps on noneconomic damages and a ban on punitive damages, would lower health care costs by only 0.4 percent to 0.5 percent, and the likely effect on health insurance premiums would be comparably small. (emphasis added)
Moreover, according to Americans for Insurance Reform, medical malpractice losses (verdicts, settlements, legal fees, etc.) and medical malpractice premiums have each stayed under 1 percent of total U.S. health care costs for the last 18 years.
Far from addressing frivolous lawsuits, the Presidents plan would broadly restrict the constitutional rights of all American citizens to go to court, while weakening the justice systems ability to prevent medical errors. It will do nothing to help doctors who are being price-gouged by insurance companies. Moreover, it will disproportionately hurt the most severely injured Americans, such as seniors in nursing homes, quadriplegic workers and brain-damaged children.
President Bush should stop putting corporate and special interests before those of average Americans and focus on the real reasons why doctors and others are paying more and more for insurance -- the weak economy and corporate irresponsibility by the insurance industry.