Thursday, November 10, 2005

MED-MAL "REFORM" UPDATE: Ken Connor, former president of the Family Research Council and attorney for Florida Governor Jeb Bush in the Terri Schiavo case, injects fresh air into the debate over changes to our civil justice system. His column, with support links, persuasively argues the following:
All told, the top 15 medical malpractice insurance carriers raised their rates a startling 120% between 2000-2004, even though their payouts increased less than 6%. Some companies continued to raise the rates doctors pay even though their payout expenses were declining.

The industry’s clear strategy is to blame injured patients and their attorneys in order to deflect attention from their avarice.

The truth is that there is a medical malpractice crisis facing our nation. It has its origins in the operating room, not the courtroom. According to an Institute of Medicine study published a few years ago, between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die in hospitals every year due to preventable medical errors.i (To put that in context, we lost 58,000 soldiers in the entire Vietnam War).

Another way to improve the quality of patient care is for doctors to police their own ranks more vigorously. In Florida, for instance, one study has shown that over half of the malpractice in that state is committed by just six percent of the doctors.iv The proper response to that fact is not to attack the injured patients and strip them of their legal rights, but to more aggressively discipline errant doctors. A “three strikes and you’re out” program for negligent doctors would not only be good for patients, but also for the non-negligent doctors who are currently forced to pick up the tab for their negligent colleagues.

Another way to reduce insurance premiums for good doctors would be to institute a “risk pooling” method of insurance coverage. Doctors with a history of neglect would be placed in “high risk” pools separate and apart from those with good track records. The result will be that insurance premiums will be more commensurate with the risk posed by those in the “pool”.

Connor will be speaking to the ATLA Republican Trial Lawyers Caucus tomorrow. Just goes to show that sometimes, the differences between "red" and "blue" types is not that great after all.