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Reducing The Cost Of Health Care – For Real

[1]That title is not out of a fiction novel. It could happen right here in our time.

A few weeks ago, both the Obama Administration and the US House made major moves to begin limiting the outlandish awards being handed out by some juries in medical malpractice cases. This area has long been a trial lawyers’ playground and each of us is paying the price.

We may be making the right kind of progress now. The President included $250 million [2] in his budget so that the Department of Justice could work with states to rewrite their medical malpractice laws and see real, effective change on this issue. The proposal provides some specific areas of relief by using judges with expertise in this area to decide cases instead of allowing juries to dole out unreasonable awards. Additional proposals might include creating reliable standards for doctors to operate under that would allow them to prove they were not negligent and a shift from full liability of every entity involved, to proportional liability amongst all parties (hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, etc.).

House Republican efforts are a little more straightforward [3]. They would impose a cap on non-economic damages awarded from juries. This would take out much of the incentive for the frivolous and costly lawsuits in the medical industry. Here is a more detailed summary of House File 5, cleared through committee about a month ago (you can read the bill here [4]):

The movement on both sides should be seen as a win for health care consumers. Runaway litigation [5] has led to massive increases in unnecessary medical procedures and huge run ups in doctors’ insurance premiums, and will continue to spin out of control. All of those expenses are passed on to the premium payer and the taxpayer, in other words, you and me. Now is the time to enact real medical liability reform.