Web review; This week’s topic: Medical malpractice

Kansas City Star
Sunday, January 26, 2003


In Scranton, Pa., this month, President Bush blamed "a broken legal system" for skyrocketing malpractice insurance rates.

The president said that "too many expensive lawsuits ending in excessive jury awards and settlements are driving up health care costs and sending physicians out of states" such as Pennsylvania.

Bush proposed capping pain-and-suffering awards in malpractice suits at $250,000, reserving punitive damages for extreme cases and limiting them to "reasonable amounts."

Many states, including Missouri and Kansas, already cap noneconomic damages - intangibles such as pain and suffering, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life.

Caps or no caps, Bush's remarks renewed the controversy over the cause of rising medical malpractice insurance rates. Although insurers and many physicians blame a legal system run amok, trial lawyers and other opponents of caps say sour investments by the insurance industry are responsible.

Who's right? Check out the arguments for yourself. I've chosen the Web sites of four prominent organizations on either side of the debate. Each makes its points sharply. And each scores its opponents for distorting the evidence. 

Three stars 

This is the Web site of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a consumer group. Click on "Medical Malpractice Mismanagement - Why Some Major Insurers Have Pulled Out of the Market." The report asserts that mismanaged underwriting practices, not skyrocketing jury
verdicts, are the reason insurance companies are abandoning the field.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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