With Election Day mere months away and next year’s presidential race already heating up, phrases like “tort reform,” “rising healthcare costs” and “medical malpractice caps” are being bandied about by politicians. The presidential hopeful from the Lone Star State is touting Texas’ 2003 legislation that capped noneconomic medical malpractice damages as a potential model for national reform, claiming it led to an influx of new physicians, cut frivolous lawsuits and put a dent in skyrocketing healthcare costs. But analysis of post-tort reform Texas seems to echo a recent study by Public Citizen, a nonprofit citizens’ advocacy group, that medical malpractice takes unfair blame for rising healthcare costs. When Texas enacted the medical malpractice cap legislation, the state ranked tenth highest in the nation in per-person Medicare reimbursement rates. Within three years, those rates jumped to the second-highest in the country. According to “Selected Medicare Reimbursement Measures” in the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, Texas’ per-person Medicare spending jumped to nearly $2,000 more than the national average between the passing of tort reform and 2007. Likewise, a Dallas Morning News analysis of healthcare costs following the medical malpractice cap found that family and individual health insurance premiums have increased 51 percent and 45 percent respectively. As for the alleged deluge of doctors, PolitiFact.com, an online political watchdog produced by the St. Petersburg Times, found that for nearly a decade prior to the medical malpractice caps, Texas added doctors at a rate twice that of the state’s population growth. Since medical malpractice caps, the number of new doctors in the state has actually tapered off to an increase of only 4 percent more than the population growth rate. Meanwhile, many states that have passed medical malpractice caps illustrate a dire problem aside from fuzzy figures: victims of medical malpractice sometimes remain victims. In many cases, the compensation limits set by states for medical malpractice claims are woefully inadequate to provide victims the money necessary for ongoing treatment. This problem can be exacerbated by the fact that even if a victim is awarded financial damages in a lawsuit, he or she may lose a significant chunk of that money to court costs and other legal expenses. The so-called “loser pays” dictate is not always part of medical malpractice cap legislation, and in many states both plaintiffs and defendants pay related expenses regardless of the outcome. All too often, victims are left without the necessary funds to pay the medical expenses which were the very purpose of filing the lawsuit. As politicians once again stir the debate over tort reform, one thing will remain constant: If you are harmed or a family member is killed due to medical negligence, you need a medical malpractice lawyer with the knowledge, resources and determination to represent you. If you or a loved one was harmed due to medical negligence, please contact the experienced Mobile, Alabama, medical malpractice attorneys at Long & Long for your free case evaluation.

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