published Friday, February 18th, 2011

Not real malpractice reform

For years, there have been calls for reform of medical malpractice laws. That's because outrageously excessive jury awards in some lawsuits drive up physicians' insurance premiums and force doctors to administer costly tests that really aren't necessary, just to head off the threat of lawsuits.

All of those factors increase the cost of medical care for everyone.

So there was cause for hope when President Barack Obama began talking about supporting malpractice reform to bring costs down.

But he is unfortunately ignoring the most important aspect of real malpractice reform: capping sky-high jury awards. There should, of course, be full compensation for actual economic losses that a patient suffers if a doctor performs badly. There also should be reasonable damages for pain and suffering, in some proportion to the economic harm suffered.

But in the president's proposed 2012 budget, funding to promote malpractice reform specifically cannot be applied toward efforts to cap massive jury awards.

In other words, the thing that would go the furthest toward bringing common sense to medical malpractice and reducing the cost of medical care is the very thing that is excluded from malpractice reform.

Undoubtedly, that is because the president and other Democrats rely heavily on the campaign contributions of trial lawyers -- who have a financial stake in opposing caps on jury awards.

Genuine malpractice reform is much to be desired. It is unfortunate that the president has rejected the best way to achieve that reform.

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