But can we please stop pretending that it has anything at all to do with the cost of healthcare in this country?
Lets be clear. Yes there is a lot of suing going on in this country. Yes, sometimes an employer is negligent and sometimes the claim is fraudulent. A report by two southern republicans, big name conservatives in fact, have previously laid it out. Mitch McConnell and Dick Armey, both republicans, had put this report together in 1998. Let’s just use it as true, since these two in particular are generally against healthcare reform.
Now, how much is tort law costing you? Well there is an estimate that Tort law is costing each person, on average, an extra 880 dollars or so per year in extra costs of the products and services you buy from companies that have to pay these legal expenses. But this is the total cost of all torts, fraudulent or not. That means that medical malpractice tort costs you an extra 88 cents per year, again, fraudulent or not.
How much does healthcare cost? The Kaiser Family Foundation put that number at $5700 in 2003. There are reports of it reaching 8000 dollars per person later this year. Its really hard to understand how those 88 cents in 1998 (OK, lets say it has quadruples since then) has anything to do with our current ridiculous costs of healthcare.
So when someone writes an article suggesting as a means to lower healthcare costs:
Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.
You gotta put on your skeptical hat for the rest of the proposals. This is a simple flat out lie. Although, to be fair, some of the suggestions in that article are just fine.
Here’s a radical idea (sarcasm): Providing national healthcare allows significant tort reform. This is the model in Australia and other countries. Since most of tort law is centered around health related injuries (you can be injured in other ways), if future expenses of healthcare were no longer an issue, because healthcare is covered, then the cost of losing a tort case would drop dramatically. You could even put a ceiling on it as long as healthcare was provided.