Medical Malpractice Myth #5

The final medical malpractice myth has political overtones. It’s the myth that tort reform will lower insurance rates in this country. Tort reform, as it is understood in the political realm, is really all about limiting citizens’ access to the courts by capping the damages awarded to victims of malpractice cases. The argument is spun by insurance company lobbyists who spend millions trying to convince the public that medical malpractice cases are all about greedy lawyers.
The facts tell a different story. States that cap damage awards are very similar to states that don’t cap damages in terms of insurance premium rates.

In fact, in 2009, the average liability premium in states without caps damages were lower than the average premium in states with caps on damages, with premiums of $43,709 and $44,799 respectively.

While lobbyists continue to point to tort reform as the way to lower insurance premiums, the insurance industry has admitted there’s no correlation between the two. Dennis Kelly of the American Insurance Association (AIA) has said, “We have not promised price reductions with tort reform.” In addition, an AIA press release stated: “Insurers never promised that tort reform would achieve specific premium savings…”

According to Bob White, President of First Professional Insurance Company, the largest medical malpractice insurer in Florida, “no responsible insurer can cut its rates after a [medical malpractice tort ‘reform’] bill passes.”

If the insurance industry admits there’s no relationship between tort reform and lower insurance premiums, why does the myth continue? Perhaps, because it makes for good political theater. However, good political theater does little to protect the consumer. Access to the courts is a basic fundamental right that shouldn’t be attacked to score political points.