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Pennsylvania Finding Tort Reform Balancing Act not What was Proposed

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Tort reform is often offered as a solution to the problem of growing malpractice insurance rates for doctors, and as a solution to a given state’s "doctor’s exodus." However, after 30 years of tort reform throughout the country, individual states are finding that tort reform is not tipping the scales for doctors at all, though it does tip them against consumers.

A Pennsylvania editorial, written by Leonard Sloane, recently nailed the real objective behind tort reform: corporate cronyism. Mr. Sloane compared Texas, the beacon of light State for tort reformers, to Pennsylvania:

Texas is the national model for so called “tort reform,” but medical-malpractice insurance premiums there only went down by 1.2 percent. In our state, because of a more competitive market, doctors saw their insurance bills go down by an average of 10.2 percent.

The doctors are not leaving our state. The number of doctors here has steadily grown since 1992 by 5,322. Lawsuits are down dramatically, as are verdicts.

While tort reform does NOT lower doctors’ malpractice premiums (which are actually more affected by the stock market and the investments insurance companies make), tort reform in Texas is keeping injured parties out of the court room. But it is also having a broad effect on health care in Texas:

“Tort reform” leads to unsafe health care. What is even more ironic is the quality of health care in Texas has declined precipitously in the past year. According to a just-released study by the United Health Foundation, it fell behind six other states compared to the past year’s ranking.

It is curious that malpractice lawsuits are not seen by free-market proponents as a sufficient check on the health insurance industry. Instead, it is pre-determined by tort reform advocates that it is good for the health care market to not hold people accountable for their mistakes.

As Pennsylvania has shown, with its drop in malpractice lawsuits, and steady growth of doctors, tort reform does not promote the market the way it claims. It merely promotes the insurance industry and corporate America by placing them in a bubble of protection from accountability.