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

Tort "Reform" Affects the Quality of Health Care

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As the Illinois Supreme Court considers whether to strike down that state’s cap on medical malpractice damages, some have suggested that insurance premiums for doctors are tied directly to the existence of the cap.

The historic law provided meaningful lawsuit, insurance and medical reforms. Democrats, Republicans and independents alike joined together and pleaded with lawmakers to address the growing health care crisis in Illinois and the result was a comprehensive law that by all accounts is working. For the second year in a row, ISMIE Mutual Insurance Co., the state’s largest physician insurer, announced the company’s basic premium rates would not be going up. A recent OB/GYN Crisis Coalition survey shows that the number of OB/GYNs who "strongly agree" that Illinois’ liability climate is the biggest issue facing health care has gone from a whopping 87 percent in 2004 to about 58 percent in 2008.

But does the fact that there is a cap on damages mean that the quality of health care has improved? Does it mean that there have been less medical errors in Illinois? The only purpose of the statute is to protect insurance company profits.

Rather than give a free pass to doctors who make errors and to the companies that insure them, shouldn’t Illinois focus on assuring that its citizens receive the safest health care in the nation?

If a doctor is found to have been negligent on multiple occasions shouldn’t his or her premiums go up? Shouldn’t it be harder for that doctor to continue practicing?

No one wants responsible and competent doctors to leave their state and no one wants insurance companies to dictate the type of health care available in a state. But caping the damages that an injured party may receive solely to protect insurance company profits is wrong.

The goal of medical liability reform should be to assure quality health care, not insurance company profits.