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Tort reform would be helpful

September 3, 2009 - Lee Smith
In my last blog, I offered a philosophical disagreement to those who believe every American is entitled to health insurance. Lest I be misunderstood, I do believe there are things Congress can do to make health care more affordable in the United States. The most important is tort reform.

"Tort" refers to a wrongful act for which a civil lawsuit can be brought. But we all know tort law is abused mightily in the United States every year. People suing for spilling coffee on themselves is one example. Or people too stupid to know how to properly use a ladder. The medical field is rife with lawsuits, with trial lawyers (who contribute more money to Democratic politicians than anyone else) getting rich in the process.

For doctors, liability means ensuring that every patient they see gets all sorts of tests. This is called "defensive medicine." (The high cost of malpractice insurance drives some physicians out of business. This is evident in neurosurgery, obstetrics and emergency medicine.) All these tests can add an estimated 20 to 30 percent to a patient's bill. And those bills, as we know, are paid by insurers. And each year, insurance premiums rise.

The solution is obvious. Tort reform. Which would limit damages in some way, or put medical malpractice decisions in front of medical experts and actuaries rather than juries that can be warped by emotional testimony.

Will the Democrats who control Congress have the courage to take on trial lawyers? Probably not. And that is a true tragedy, given how simple the remedy would be.


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