Tort reform has been a recent issue in the public sector. The basic principle of tort reformÂ is simple. It strives toÂ put limits on theÂ compensation forÂ non-economic damages awarded in law suits. Non-economic damages may best be described as compensation for pain and suffering as opposed to actual damages. Without limits, someone can be sued for millions of dollarsÂ or billions of dollars and onlyÂ the whim of aÂ jury decides that amount. In the issue of medical malpractice, this is important. Why? The insurance companies that determine how much liability the physician needs to be covered for have to determine their cost-risk ratio. If they are insuring me for 6 million dollars and yet I am likely to be sued for 6 billion dollars, then they lose and lose big. They will need to increase the amount of my malpractice insurance to cover that risk and those costs then becomeÂ astronomical. Of course, those costs will be included in my fees and the price of receiving medical careÂ becomes increasingly high as the cost of providing medical care rises proportionately. If a fixed, maximum compensationÂ can be established through tort reform, the malpractice insuranceÂ companies can more effectuallyÂ determine the limits of compensation for both economic and non-economicÂ costs. My malpractice coverage is decreased and the cost of medicine is reduced. In Washington state, this has even led to only a couple of insurance companies willing toÂ do business here where tort reform doesn’t exist. Where thereÂ are no insurance carriers, there are no physicians. Ask California a decade ago.
About Richard Edgerly, MD
I am a board-certified (not that it matters), Family Medicine physician who practices in rural Washington State. I am the owner of Assurance Healthcare and Counseling Center in the city of Yakima.
Always appreciating what a little humor does to refresh the soul, I have also written a collection of stories about events that have occurred over the years in my practice, and I hope that they will also make you laugh (see Just a Spoonful of Laughter Helps the Medicine Go Down).