Physicians groups and insurance companies have for years been blaming the high cost of medical care and burgeoning liability insurance premiums on big malpractice awards. With seemingly unlimited resources, these and other groups have incessantly repeated the mantra against high awards. They have succeeded in seeing caps placed on non-economic damages, i.e., pain and suffering awards, in a majority of states. Oregon does not have medical negligence tort reform per se, but there is a cap of $500,000 in all death cases in the state, which includes medical malpractice death cases in its broad net.
However, several studies now tend to debunk the idea that the high costs of medical care are tied to high medical malpractice awards. Two of those studies were recently published by a university professor who is an expert on health care regulation and financing. He and his research team compared data from states that passed tort reform with data that recorded health care spending and health care costs in those states.
They also looked at similar expense categories in states that do not have tort reform. The research indicated that the high costs of health care were not higher in the states that do not have tort reform. In the second study, claims that doctors will move to states that have tort reform proved untrue. The data showed that doctors are motivated by simple economic issues of income and the net amount they receive from Medicare and similar issues.
The researchers thus found that the medical malpractice amounts would hardly have an impact on the high price of medical care. These studies and other recent reports indicate that caps on non-economic damages have done nothing to raise the cost of medical care in the United States. This fact should keep the Oregon legislature from trying to pass ineffective tort reform measures that only serve to create additional hardship for victims of medical malpractice.
Source: medicalxpress.com, "Medical malpractice reform does little to contain health care costs", Phil Ciciora, Jan. 28, 2015