Protect Patients Now

Volume 5, Issue  11 NOVEMBER 2010 Newsletter


Special points of interest:

Increasing Access to Care by Decreasing our National Deficit
Investing in Lawsuit Abuse
Editorials Encourage Action on Liability Reform
With Reform in Reverse, Doctors Flee Illinois

Increasing Access to Care by Decreasing our National Deficit

With reducing our sky-high deficit becoming a national priority, two leading bipartisan efforts have proposed comprehensive medical liability reform as part of the solution. Specifically, reasonable limits on non-economic damages have been cited as a key reform component that will reduce defensive medicine and related health care costs.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Chairmen Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, released an initial proposal earlier this month that included plans to reduce health care costs – one of which is to “pay lawyers less and reduce the costs of defensive medicine by adopting comprehensive tort reform.”

Even more encouraging was the release of a second study by the Bipartisan Policy Center, placing the savings of restraining total health care costs at $756 billion through 2020, partly due to limits on noneconomic and punitive damages in medical liability cases.

The correlation is clear – comprehensive medical liability reform is a win-win for patients and all Americans. Not only will reform preserve access to quality care, it will reduce health care costs and the national debt. Protect Patients Now is pleased that there is renewed recognition of the benefits of reform and will continue to work with policy makers to turn these proposals into law. Click here and here to read our press releases that praise the work of both commissions.

Investing in Lawsuit Abuse

As if personal injury lawyers didn’t have enough incentive to clog the legal system with meritless lawsuits, investors are fueling the fire of lawsuit abuse.

According to The New York Times, “large banks, hedge funds and private investors hungry for new and lucrative opportunities are bankrolling other people’s lawsuits, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into medical malpractice claims, divorce battles and class actions against corporations — all in the hope of sharing in the potential winnings.”

A review by The New York Times and the Center for Public Integrity shows that borrowed money is fueling abuses, including cases initiated and controlled by investors that should have never made their way through the legal system in the first place.

The practice is hurting patients with legitimate claims as well. Lawyers and lenders are passing on exorbitant interest rates on loans that drain money from plaintiffs and cause them to owe more on their loan than they receive in any judgment.

Personal injury lawyers are running our legal system ragged and allowing those looking for a quick payout to exploit our patients for financial gain. To read more about the practice of investing in lawsuits, click here.

Editorials Encourage Action on Liability Reform

Supporters of medical liability reform have been taking to the editorial pages of newspapers across the country, giving new life to the effort less than a year after Congress failed to fix our broken liability system in the health care reform bill.

An editorial in the Boston Globe speculates that the new Republican-controlled Congress will do little to roll back parts of health care reform, but instead will work to “strengthen its anemic effort to reform this country’s dysfunctional medical-malpractice system.” The editorial reinforces what supporters of Protect Patients Now already know – that the current system costs too much, takes too long, and is designed to benefit personal injury lawyers, not patients.

In the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Dr. Richard Amerling of Beth Israel Medical Center and Albert Einstein Medical College writes in support of a “loser pays” system to reduce meritless lawsuits and deter personal injury lawyers from abusing our legal system. While he is unsure of chances for federal medical liability reform due to the influence of personal injury lawyers and their powerful lobbying efforts, he pushes for reforms at the state level as an acceptable alternative.

Even Investor’s Business Daily is weighing in on the issue and supporting the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform’s recommendation regarding reasonable limits on noneconomic damages. Regardless if a lawsuit reaches trial, a physician faces costs upwards of $100,000, with premiums and legal expenses totaling tens of billons each year that are ultimately passed on to patients.

With Reform in Reverse, Doctors Flee Illinois

Many thought that the cure to what ailed Illinois’ liability system was found in 2005 when the state legislature enacted reasonable limits on noneconomic damages in medical liability lawsuits. Unfortunately, earlier this year, the state Supreme Court struck down those limits, leading to an increase in physicians’ liability premiums and new indications that doctors are leaving the state to practice elsewhere.

A new study questioned 561 graduating students and fellows, and found that 49% intended to leave the state to practice with the hostile liability environment in Illinois frequently cited as a problem. The researchers warn that this could lead to a shortage of physicians in the state in the future, especially in rural areas.

If personal injury lawyers win the fight against reform in Illinois, it will almost certainly lead to an access to care crisis for patients throughout the state. To read more about how the litigious climate is affecting Illinois’ patients, click here.


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