Both candidates in the vice presidential debate on Tuesday evening, Oct. 5 acknowledged the ongoing medical liability crisis in the United States, according to the Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA), an association of doctor or hospital-owned and/or operated medical liability insurance companies.
In response to a question about medical liability, Vice President Dick
Cheney stated, “My concern is specifically with what’s happened to our medical care system because of rising malpractice insurance rates, because we failed to adequately reform our medical liability structure.” John Edwards, the Democrat nominee, agreed a serious problem exists. “And I would be the first to say that what the vice president described a few minutes ago, problems with malpractice premiums, that’s true, it’s real. It’s very real,” said the Senator from North Carolina.
“We applaud both the Republicans and Democrats for diagnosing the illness of our medical liability system,” said Larry Smarr, PIAA president. “Unfortunately the Kerry-Edwards plan won’t provide relief to patients and their doctors who are quitting, leaving the area or limiting their practices.”
While Sen. Edwards acknowledged during the debate that, “[w]e do have too many lawsuits,” the Kerry-Edwards plan reportedly attempts to address the issue by requiring medical liability cases to be reviewed by “independent experts” before being allowed to proceed to trial.
According to the PIAA, unfortunately, Senators Kerry and Edwards apparently are not aware that 15 states already require such “certificates of merit” to assess the validity of a claim in medical liability cases, and all but one of those states has been deemed by the American Medical Association as being in or approaching a full-blown liability crisis. Obviously, these “certificates,” absent substantive tort reforms, are not the remedy. Kerry and Edwards also suggested that a lawyer should be banned, temporarily, from filing medical liability cases only if he/she files three suits that are declared to be frivolous.
“First, if the Kerry-Edwards ticket believes that certificates of merit work, then no lawyer should ever be able to file a frivolous suit. Second, if frivolous suits will still slip through, as this two-tiered proposal suggests, then this plan is akin to saying that doctors should be able to perform three completely unnecessary surgeries before they can be stopped from performing any more of those surgeries – something no doctor we represent would ever agree with,” stated Smarr.
According to the PIAA, the real cure for the ailing medical liability system is not a new and untested approach – it is a plan of treatment that more than 10% of the U.S. population has been living under for more than a quarter century. The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA) was put in place by California’s Democratic Legislature and a Democratic Governor.
PIAA added that MICRA, with its effective cap on non-economic damages, has inoculated California providers and patients from the symptoms that plague citizens in many other states. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed provisions similar to MICRA nine times since 1995, while Senators Kerry and Edwards have repeatedly worked to block these proven reforms in the U.S. Senate.
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