Tax Credits Not Enough to Counter Med Mal Crisis, Says Reform Group

May 15, 2003

The burden skyrocketing medical liability costs are placing on America’s health care providers will not be eased by an amendment that would provide tax credits to hospitals and physicians in both low- and high-risk specialties, said a statement released by the Coalition for Reliable and Affordable Health Care (CARH).

The amendment, introduced today by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), tacitly acknowledges that patient access to medical care is put at risk when doctors and hospitals are forced out of practice by rising liability costs, but fails to address the underlying cause of the crisis.

According to John Thomas, chairman of CARH, a national organization working to reform America’s medical liability laws, Durbin’s legislation not only fails to appropriately address the crisis of rising liability costs and the consequent loss of access to health care, but allows personal injury lawyers to continue their reckless behavior at the expense of the taxpayer.

“The legislation has three shortcomings,” Thomas said. “It does nothing to reduce medical liability costs, which are a drag on the economy and causing double-digit increases in health insurance costs. It takes the heat off of the personal injury lawyers whose abuse and frivolous lawsuits have created the problem. And it increases the burden on taxpayers. Taxpayers should not subsidize greedy lawyers and a broken system.”

According to Thomas, the real solution is simple.

“All you have to do is look at California to see what works,” Thomas said, referring to the law known as MICRA that reformed California’s liability system almost 30 years ago and resulted in medical liability costs that are among the lowest in the country.

Earlier this year the U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEALTH Act, which contains MICRA-type provisions including limits on attorneys’ contingency fees and a cap on non-economic damages. A group of Democratic senators opposed to medical liability reform are threatening to filibuster companion legislation to the HEALTH Act pending in the Senate.

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