Currently, the law in Pennsylvania limits how much money personal injury victims can recover when suing those responsible for their injuries. Insurance companies love this rule because it allows them to cap how much money they’re paying out for negligence and other bad behavior. As much as insurance companies enjoy all the money caps on damages save them, they’d like to keep more. Under the banner of “tort reform” industry giants wage battles to manipulate public perception, guide friendly politicians into office and write legislation that eliminates the rights of people to access the civil justice system. Lawyers utilize personal injury resources in Pennsylvania and other states across the country to inform everyday citizens of just how bad these moves can be for them.
Same Tune, Different Town
Insurance companies and doctors say tort reform is a mandatory component of fixing the broken medical malpractice system in Pennsylvania. They argue that tort reform will eliminate frivolous lawsuits, lower healthcare costs and lead to lower insurance premiums. This tune isn’t new – they’ve played it in other states before, including Texas. In 2003, lawmakers squeaked legislation onto the books that capped damages in lawsuits against doctors to $250,000 and lawsuits against hospitals at $750,000. Then Governor Rick Perry lauded the new regulations, claiming they’d reform healthcare in Texas.
Healthcare across the Nation
By 2010, the average coverage premium for family health insurance in Texas was $14,526 – $655 higher than the national average. Doctors and insurance companies didn’t pass those promised savings onto consumers. Surprised?
In fact, while insurance companies and doctors were rallying against medical malpractice lawsuits, payments from malpractice suits fell 11.9 percent. That’s right, according to Public Citizen, medical malpractice payments dropped 11.9 percent between 2000 and 2010. Meanwhile, healthcare spending increased by 90 percent over the same time period across the nation. Liability insurance premiums – those costs doctors and hospitals contend are crippling their ability to practice medicine – fell in 2009 to a scant 0.40 of 1 percent of total healthcare costs, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank. These figures include all profits and administrative costs as well as fees for litigation.
All this data points to a simple fact: doctors and insurance companies simply can’t draw a connection between medical malpractice suits and rising healthcare costs. Preventing patients from holding physicians accountable for negligence doesn’t make costs cheaper. In fact, whenever states choose to cap damages, they only increase insurance company profits.
Pennsylvania bad faith insurance lawyers realize the importance of preserving the rights of people to access the civil justice system. If lawmakers allow the type of civil rights removal masked as reform that happened in Texas to occur in Pennsylvania, dark clouds may be on the horizon. Without the threat of litigation, insurance companies and doctors have no incentive to deal with people honorably and preserve standards of care.
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