by Jane Marshall
April 16, 2005
The Alaska Senate voted to lower the cap on medical malpractice awards to $250,000. Those senators should have done some research before lowering the cap as should President Bush before he set forth on his relentless campaign to enact tort reform.
Bush went into "judicial hellhole" country to call for tort reform, which is designed to assure the lowering of medical-malpractice insurance rates. Before making this claim, he should have noted what happened in Mississippi, where five counties were listed on the American Tort Reform Association's "judicial hellhole" list.
After tort reform was effected in Mississippi, Dr. Keith Goodfellow said that skyrocketing malpractice rates are forcing him to give up part of his practice. I can't think he is the only Mississippi doctor to find that tort reformers' promises now have a hollow ring.
When Mississippi placed a cap on pain-and-suffering awards, it joined other states that have done so on the "medical malpractice victims' hellhole" list. Medical malpractice creates victims. Then tort reformers seek to make them victims once more by denying them a basic constitutional right: that a jury decides what recompense for their injury is appropriate.
Tort reformers, who surely know better, persist in promoting California as their poster boy, who didn't have staying power. Doctors' premiums increased by 450 percent during the 13 years after medical-liability caps in California were imposed and only declined after voters enacted comprehensive insurance-industry reform and rate regulation of insurance companies, known as Proposition 103.
Obviously, Bush isn't going to stop promoting the myth of tort reform. Legislators in Alaska's House of Representatives and in Congress should look beyond rhetoric and support the interests of victims of medical malpractice, not the interests of insurance companies and bad doctors who are the only beneficiaries of tort reform.
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