Trial Lawyers to Obama: No to Tort Reform in Summit

The trial lawyers have nothing to fear, there’s no way The One will compromise such a valued special interest group. It’s just another promise to be broken.

Obama’s hints that he is willing to make a deal with Republicans on medical malpractice reform has got physicians and trial lawyers scratching their heads.

As recently as Tuesday, Obama floated the possibility of offering an olive branch to Republicans on malpractice reform as a gesture of bipartisanship. “I’ve said from the beginning of this debate I’d be willing to work on that,” Obama remarked during a press briefing.


Although Obama has repeatedly cited medical malpractice reform as a possible area of compromise with the GOP, he has not explained where he sees the middle ground and, indeed, has rejected Republicans’ top priority in this area: the hard-dollar caps on lawsuit awards in malpractice cases long sought by the physician and business lobbies.

The CBO stated that tort reform would save $54 billion annually. The insane, inconsistent lottery prizes sought by trial lawyers (of which they receive a nice chunk) make doctors feel as though they’re practicing medicine with a trial lawyer on each shoulder. An oldie but a goodie (and one of my favorite columns on the matter) from The Hammer:

(1) Tort reform: As I wrote recently, our crazy system of casino malpractice suits results in massive and random settlements that raise everyone’s insurance premiums and creates an epidemic of defensive medicine that does no medical good, yet costs a fortune.

An authoritative Massachusetts Medical Society study found that five out of six doctors admitted they order tests, procedures and referrals — amounting to about 25 percent of the total — solely as protection from lawsuits. Defensive medicine, estimates the libertarian/conservative Pacific Research Institute, wastes more than $200 billion a year. Just half that sum could provide a $5,000 health insurance grant — $20,000 for a family of four — to the uninsured poor (U.S. citizens ineligible for other government health assistance).

What to do? Abolish the entire medical-malpractice system. Create a new social pool from which people injured in medical errors or accidents can draw. The adjudication would be done by medical experts, not lay juries giving away lottery prizes at the behest of the liquid-tongued John Edwardses who pocket a third of the proceeds.

The pool would be funded by a relatively small tax on all health-insurance premiums. Socialize the risk; cut out the trial lawyers. Would that immunize doctors from carelessness or negligence? No. The penalty would be losing your medical license. There is no more serious deterrent than forfeiting a decade of intensive medical training and the livelihood that comes with it.

But if we do that then the Democrats could lose out on the support of a special interest group and trial lawyers would go hungry from their inability to exploit a wonky system under the guise of “patient rights.” Patients retain their rights to compensation under an alternative like the one listed above. Trial lawyers don’t retain a paycheck from it which presents the question: who is more important? Trial lawyers or the American people?