Will Congress Buy the Economic Argument for Tort Reform?

By Pretzer, Michael | Medical Economics, September 8, 1997 | Go to article overview

Will Congress Buy the Economic Argument for Tort Reform?


Pretzer, Michael, Medical Economics


Reform would cut Medicare expenses, and it almost surely would reduce your malpractice premiums. So why are legislators reluctant to face this issue?

Despite the fact that proponents of malpractice reform can demonstrate that the nation would spend far less on health care-and physicians less on liability insurance-with the enactment of federal tort reform, Congress isn't heeding their message. Is it any wonder, then, that to many Americans Washington politics is all about greasing palms and kissing backsides?

Unfortunately, such a cynical view ignores the relatively agreeable and substantive forms of persuasion that are practiced in the nation's capital.

Among the more popular forms is the releasing of studies. Typically, a study is done by an independent research firm that's hired by an advocate of something or other. Naturally, the results of the research advance the advocate's point of view. (Why fund or publish research that doesn't?) But the study can't be blatantly propagandistic. If it's to be convincing, it has to have an aura of scientific eloquence rather than a stench of statistical hocus-pocus.

Timing as well as content determine how well a study is received-by politicians, the public, and the press. For example, poor timing caused me to react skeptically to a recent report commissioned by the American Association of Health Plans, even though it had been done by a respected firm here in Washington. Unfortunately for AAHP, the same week that it released its study, showing that the current Medicare reimbursements to HMOs are just about right (95 percent of feefor-service payments), The New England Journal of Medicine reported that Medicare beneficiaries in HMOs use fewer inpatient services than beneficiaries under FFS and are therefore cheaper to take care of.

In contrast, the case in favor of malpractice reform was timed just right. Back in July, the Physician Insurers Association of America, with the support of the American Medical Association, released a report just as the topic began to weigh on the minds of legislators-a week before the House of Representatives and the Senate began to reconcile differences over that and sundry other health-care issues in their budget bills.

Moreover, the study's content was credible, even to cynics such as me. Yes, it predictably showed that tort reform touted by the two groups would cut health-care costs by millions of dollars. But the conclusion differed only slightly from findings of previous research, including studies done by the Congressional Budget Office. "Every major independent study over the last 15 years has reached the same conclusion," Thomas R. Reardon, the chair of the AMA, said after the report was released.

Imagine for a moment that malpractice liability law is changed across the countryas it has been in some states. Non-economic damages are capped at $250,000, and the collateral source rule is modified so that a plaintiff isn't easily able to collect from both a defending physician and others. What happens to your malpractice insurance premium? According to Barents Group/KPMG Peat Marwick, the firm that did the study for the PIAA, the premium will almost surely shrink. Not immediately, but within a couple of years.

Barents looked at how tort reform would affect the malpractice insurance premiums of internists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, general surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and radiologists. Last year they paid annual premiums that ranged, on average, from $9,782 for internists to $35,089 for orthopedic surgeons. If reform were to go into effect in 1998, say, by the year 2000 ophthalmologists would see their premiums drop by 20 percent, orthopedic surgeons by 13.5 percent, general surgeons by 12 percent, radiologists by nearly 12 percent, cardiologists by 10 percent, and internists by 7 percent.

In its study, Barents tracked the performance of insurance premiums in four states-California, Colorado, Missouri, and Oregon-where tort reform went into effect in the 1980s. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Will Congress Buy the Economic Argument for Tort Reform?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.