Letter to the Editor: 'Tort reform' doesn't help insurance rates

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Thursday, April 29, 2004

In its April 26 editorial "Malpractice crisis hits home" the Free Press perpetuates the myth that frivolous lawsuits are driving up malpractice insurance premiums, while leaving the insurance industry off the hook.

Only greater oversight and stricter regulation of the insurance industry, not restricting patients' rights, will lead to reductions in medical malpractice premiums for doctors in Tennessee and Georgia.

Even if noneconomic damage awards were limited, as the editorial recommends, there is absolutely no evidence premiums would drop.
Indeed, history shows that just the opposite might be true. In state after state, "tort reform" has been met with insurance rate increases.

This year in Oklahoma, where noneconomic damages were capped in 2003, insurers demanded an astounding 101 percent rate increase less than a year after filing for an 83 percent rate increase.

In Nevada, one insurance carrier requested a 93 percent rate hike only weeks after "tort reform" was enacted in 2002.

Similar patterns appeared in Florida, Texas and Ohio in 2003 alone.

The evidence is clear: Limiting patients' rights is devastating to injured families; it is bad policy, and it does nothing to remedy a broken insurance industry.

James Freedland
Center for Justice & Democracy 
New York, NY

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