Lawmakers move towards limiting awards from lawsuits across the nation - Fair or Not?
WASHINGTON - Congress approves sending multistate class-action suits to federal court
UPDATE: President Bush Signed Into Law Friday morning Feb. 18, 11:00am
(Link to Article)
ATLANTA - Georgia state legislators agree on tort reform - limiting medical malpractice awards to $350,000
(Link to Article)
Is this in our best interest? Opinions are strong in both directions. What do you think?
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No. I do not believe this law is in the best interest of the people. Limiting awards to injured persons only sends a message that their care and well being is not important. It's as simple as the "Golden Rule". If everyone could imagine themselves as the person who suffers a chronic injury or illness due to negligence, there would be less negligence. There would also be greater empathy for those who are made to suffer as a result of someone else's negligence. The number one contributor to a person's happiness is their own good health. If a person's health is made to suffer, through no fault of their own, they should be fairly compensated for their suffering.
I don't believe politicians are acting in our best interest. I refer you to the following article published my the Macon Telegraph:
Consumers unlikely to reap windfall from tort reform
Posted on Fri, Feb. 18, 2005
The sound of champagne corks popping could plainly be heard around doctors' offices and insurance company boardrooms in Georgia this week. They were all no doubt drinking a toast to the state legislature, which delivered them a slightly belated Valentine in the form of a tort reform bill that Governor Sonny Perdue quickly signed into law Wednesday.
Among other things, the law caps non-economic damages in malpractice lawsuits at $350,000 per injured party. Lobbyists for the legislation portrayed it as crucial for keeping doctors from fleeing the state to escape spiraling malpractice insurance costs. They also claimed it would be a boon for health care consumers, citing the cost of frivolous lawsuits as a contributing factor in the ever-climbing cost of medical care.
The point about malpractice insurance costs driving doctors out of the state seems valid. But I'm not buying this business about tort reform representing some kind of windfall for the average healthcare consumer. No one who seriously studies the economic factors driving the costs of medical care thinks that tort reform is going to do much to moderate what we pay for treatment and medication. Not much of the money that would have otherwise been awarded to injured patients is likely to end up in our pocket once this law goes into effect. Some of it will end up in your physician's bank account, and quite a bit of it will be beefing up the bottom line of medical insurance companies.
By the time the savings filter down to you and me, we'll be lucky to see pennies on the dollar. It's the same old problem with the "trickle down effect" that we've had since Ronald Reagan sold it to us back in the 1980s. The idea was that reducing the costs born by big corporations and wealthy people would eventually lead to an increase in wealth for people of all economic levels.
The problem is that when money is involved it's like pouring water on a sponge - very little of it actually ends up trickling down. I've noticed that, as a general principle, consumers tend to feel the pinch right away when the expenses of someone we do business with rise. But when those expenses decrease, the benefits make their way down to us much more slowly. When crude oil prices rise, for example, we pay more at the pump virtually the same day. But when they fall, gas prices creep back down much more gradually. Another example is how loans become more expensive almost immediately when the Federal Reserve bumps up the prime interest rate. The interest you draw from your savings account, on the other hand, inches up much more slowly as time passes. Such is the fate of a consumer in the wilds of the free market jungle. Whatever a big corporation can do to legally increase its profits, it will do.
Sometimes it seems unfair but it seems to work a lot better than socialism, so until someone comes up with a better system we have to live with it. Mark my words - the insurance companies will absorb most of the savings won through this tort reform legislation. And some of that extra cash will undoubtedly find its way into the reelection funds of the legislators who voted for it. But hey, I hope I'm wrong and we all see our health care costs plummet over the next few years. If that happens, I'll be first in line to recommend good citizenship awards to the medical industry lobbyists who shepherded these reforms through the state Legislature. Let's all save our receipts and see what happens
Bill Ferguson - Centerville