What Conservatives Think: Tort Reform: Was Bush Wrong to Say It Would Benefit the Economy?

The Left Says:

“Arguing that his economic policies consist of more than tax cuts geared to the wealthy, President Bush maintained last week in his year-end press conference that tort reform is a key part of his ‘pro-growth’ agenda, saying that it, ‘would have made a difference’ to benefit the economy. Earlier this year, the president went further, saying that the proliferation of medical malpractice lawsuits are ‘a national problem that needs a national solution.’ But a recent study by the National Center for State Courts found that medical malpractice lawsuits per capita actually decreased in the most recent ten-year period examined.”

Source: The Daily Mislead, MoveOn.org, December 22, 2003, downloaded from http://www.misleader.org/daily_mislead/read.asp?fn=df12222003.html

What Conservatives Think:

The President is correct to believe tort reform “would have made a difference” to the economy.

The cost of the U.S. tort system has increased one-hundred fold over the last 50 years, while GDP has grown by a factor of only 34.(1)

Medical malpractice lawsuits are but part of cost of excessive lawsuits, and the number of malpractice lawsuits per capita tells but a small part of the medical liability story. Often the mere possibility of a lawsuit being filed causes a potential defendant to settle.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), a surgeon, says 12 states are in health care “crisis” because of malpractice lawsuit abuse while 30 others are in “near-crisis.”(2) A Harris Interactive study(3) says 76 percent of physicians believe liability concerns are hurting the quality of medical care. $50 billion annually (and incalculable discomfort) is wasted on unnecessary tests to guard doctors and hospitals against lawsuits.(4) Unreasonable jury awards cost an estimated $70-126 billion extra in health care costs every year, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.(5)

Doctors and lawyers, corporations and consumers, insurance companies and public officials may never agree 100 percent on the proper resolution of the tort crisis, but all should be able to agree that excessive lawsuits have significant costs.


(1) U.S. Tort Costs: 2002 Update, Tillinghast-Towers Perrin, as cited by the Business Council of New York State

(2) Benjamin Grove, “Congress Hears Insurance Woes From Ex-LV Doctor,” Las Vegas Sun, February 12, 2003, available at http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/lv-gov/2003/feb/12/514652905.html as of December 31, 2003.

(3) As cited by Donald J. Palmissano, M.D., J.D., representing the American Medical Association in testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, Committee on the Judiciary, Washington, D.C., June 12, 2002.

(4) “Do Doctors Practice Defensive Medicine?” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1996, as cited by sickoflawsuits.org, available at http://www.sickoflawsuits.org/press/epidemic.cfmas of December 31, 2003.

(5) “Addressing the New Health Care Crisis: Reforming the Medical Litigation System to Improve the Quality of Health Care,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C., March 3, 2003, as cited by sickoflawsuits.org.

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