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Chris Nace
Chris Nace
Attorney • (202) 930-0292

President Uses Tort Reform — or Patient Rights — as a Bargaining Chip

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During his speech to the a joint session of Congress tonight, President Obama discussed a perceived need for medical malpractice reform:

Finally, many in this chamber – particularly on the Republican side of the aisle – have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don’t believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues. It’s a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.

Interesting choice of words:

I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs.

"May be contributing." There is no evidence that malpractice would affect the cost of health care. None. As I blogged yesterday, the fact is that medical negligence insurance and lawsuits amount to no more than a combined 1% of all health care costs. And many have pointed out that there are 98,000 deaths each year caused by medical errors:

In fact, he said, studies show that medical errors are “the sixth leading cause of death in America—the equivalent of two jumbo jets crashing every day.”

So why would President Obama offer up patient rights when it "may" reduce costs, and when there is no evidence that it would? Politics. This is nothing more than a bargaining chip. President Obama has elected to treat patients–not lawyers–as a bargaining chip. Because while Republicans see this as an attack on trial lawyers, the fact is that it will ultimately affect the victims of medical negligence.

Don’t let the President use patient rights as a bargaining chip: call your Congressperson, your Senators and the White House and tell them not to use patient rights as a bargaining chip.