Why Tort Reform is Ignored in the Health Care Debate

The discussion surrounding tort reform is often subdued when talking about health care costs.

Trial lawyers, like the American Association for Justice, claim that undermine litigation costs as a part of health care. They say that litigation is too small a piece of the health care puzzle to make much difference, citing in-tow, that litigation costs are only .6 percent of all health care spending.

James Copland, the director of the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute says that the numbers used for the low figure are deceptive. The narrow interpretation of litigation costs and large health care spending figures result in misleading information. They only take into account litigation expenses, not legal defense costs and defensive medicine, which are significantly large portions of health care costs.

In fact 93, percent of doctors say they have practiced defensive medicine. Copland further says that between 1992 and 2003, cost of litigation per nursing home beds rose 700 percent.

Senator Bob Casey, when confronted on the issue of tort reform, however, says that “A $250,000 cap on damages, in my humble opinion, is insulting to our system of justice.” That statement is not a surprise, as Senator Casey gets his largest contributions from lawyers and law firms.

Overall, lawyers and law firms gave almost $234 million to federal campaigns in 2008, including almost $127 million to Congressional candidates—more than any other industry group and significantly more than all health care-related industries combined.

Tort reform may not be the panacea to all heath care problems, but meaningful tort reform should be part of any effort to make health care more affordable.