Should Tort Reform be Part of Health Care Reform?

Yesterday, Pat Toomey, Republican candidate for Senate, spoke at the Heritage Medical Group in Camp Hill about his health care reform ideas.  Toomey has claimed that healthcare is among the most important issues facing Americans and he has ideas about how to fix it that are significantly different that the health care reform legislation passed by Congress earlier this year.

Tort reform is part of what needs to be significantly changed, according to Mr. Toomey.  On his website, Toomey claims that “runaway lawsuits” are at least partly responsible for high medical costs and for doctors in some specialties leaving Pennsylvania. 

It is the battle cry often sounded by those who favor tort reform, but are these arguments valid? 

The number of Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawsuits and payouts on Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases has fallen substantially since the 2002 medical malpractice lawsuit changes were enacted.  Thus, Mr. Toomey’s argument that runaway lawsuits are at least partly responsible for the increase in medical seems unfair.  Additionally, statistics from the American Medical Association show a per capita increase in treating physicians in Pennsylvania.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are meant to compensate victims who are entitled to compensation for the injuries they incurred due to medical negligence.  When any discussion of tort reform takes place, it is important to remember the victim and to think about the impact of the injury, and potential recovery, on the victim’s life – not just the sound bites provided by politicians of either party.