by Jane Marshall
November 07, 2004
It was reported on CNN that tort reform set off a spending spree in Alaska's State Senate race. I hope that Alaskans take note of what Texans learned from hard experience: when you listen to the seductive song of the lorelei you end up on the rocks. By a thin margin, Texans supported Proposition 12 which amended the state constitution to place a cap on medical malpractice awards for pain and suffering.
An unlikely source debunked tort reformers' claim that Proposition 12 would assure that medical malpractice insurance premiums would be lowered. GE Medical Protective, the nation's largest provider of medical malpractice insurance, has admitted in a filing that a $250,000 cap on damage awards for victims of malpractice will not lower physicians' premiums.
This revelation came in a filing with the Texas Department of Insurance, in which the insurer explained why it was filing to hike premiums for doctors by 19 percent. According to the filing, "Non-economic damages are a small percentage of total losses paid. Capping non-economic damages will show loss savings of 1 percent."
GE Medical Protective and other supporters of medical malpractice caps have repeatedly argued that damage awards are the primary reason for skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums. For example, in a March 2004 report, GE Medical Protective stated that capping non-economic damages is a "critical element (of reform) because in recent years we have seen non-economic damages spiraling out of control." Not long after Proposition 12 was passed this insurance company showed its true colors.
It is my hope that Alaskans won't listen to that deceptive song and deny victims of medical malpractice their constitutional right to have a jury decide the amount of an award since no one will benefit from that denial but insurance companies and bad doctors.
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