“Show Me” The Facts on Medical Liability

I was watching the U.S. Senate debate on health reform legislation this afternoon and had the opportunity to watch one senator making an impassioned speech about medical liability reform.  His message was that strong liability measures shouldn’t be included in the reform bill and that there is very little need for them anyway.

Missouri is just the latest state that would beg to differ.

New data released this fall by Missouri’s State Department of Insurance showed that just over 1,200 malpractice claims were filed in 2008, the lowest number since 1999.  It’s not at all a coincidence that, in 2005, the Missouri state legislature passed a tort reform bill that included a $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages and requirements that plaintiffs include an expert opinion or a certificate of merit with their filing to discourage frivolous suits.

A spokesman for the Missouri State Medical Association said that, since the reform bill was passed, medical liability premiums had stabilized in parts of the state and dropped in others.  Even more importantly, Missouri now has more physicians than it did prior to liability reform. 

Missouri joins other states that have passed liability reform and reaped considerable benefits in terms of recruiting new doctors and keeping good physicians from opting for early retirement because of high liability insurance rates.

Congress would do well to extend this progress to all Americans.