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Tort Reform - Research Paper Example

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Tort Reform Instructor Institution Impact of Tort Reform on Health Care A tort is defined as a civil wrong which would be substantial as to bring a suit in a court of law. For an offence to be a tort, it has to have resulted into injury or harm upon the injured party…
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Tort Reform Impact of Tort Reform on Health Care A tort is defined as a civil wrong which would be substantial as to bring a suit in a court of law. For an offence to be a tort, it has to have resulted into injury or harm upon the injured party. Tort proceedings and legislation is intended to mitigate the injured party against damages and to act as a deterrent against such commissions occurring in the future. Health care and medical practitioners have also been subjects of tort proceedings involving their clients. A tort proceeding in health care is usually intended to protect the clients from professional negligence, lack of provision of informed consent, and medical battery (Chepke, 2008). Torts are usually classified according to whether they are intentional or non-intentional, which normally informs he type of remedy and punishment meted out to the plaintiff in such a suit. Recent developments in tort reform have made the issue of tort in health care attain new meaning and importance. Maine and Medical Malpractice Tort Reform The state of Maine has one of the highest rates of medical malpractice premiums in the United States (Williams & Mello, 2006). With the soaring costs of insurance, the state legislature felt that a ceiling on the damages that are to be awarded in instances of medical malpractice of pain and suffering would be appropriate. The proposed cap on pain and suffering damages is supposed to set the ceiling at $ 250,000. The proposed plan has elicited controversy among medical practitioners, insurance providers and victims counsel. The proposal was brought about by the Maine legislature as a result of successful implementation of the same in other states such as Florida and Massachusetts. Issues that Necessitating Reform Tort reform in Maine State is as a result of issues and factors that are not unique to the state. Many other states such as Florida and New York have had the same issues and passed similar legislation to reform their medical malpractice tort laws. The main issues that have led to the proposals for medical malpractice reform is with regard to the increase in the amount of premiums that practitioners have had to pay to insurers against medical malpractice suits (Williams & Mello, 2006). High premiums charged by insurance companies were unfair to practitioners and were hurting health care hence defeating the objective of malpractice legislation. The state legislature believed that non economic damages suffered by patients ought to have a cap imposed on them. Excessive awards by juries have to be settled by the insurers of these practitioners. Since awards are often too high, the insurers have to charge high premiums in order to hedge against losses in medical malpractice claims. Solutions Awards on medical malpractice are usually awarded to the claimants by juries in courts of law. It has become a norm rather than the exception that the amount offered to the claimants is typically higher than what is expected which means that the insurers have to pay higher amounts (Eviatar, 2011). The state of Maine would thus limit the maximum amount that can be awarded to a claimant at $250,000. These will have the effect of making juries make lower awards since only the most deserving cases would be awarded the ceiling amount. Medical malpractice ceilings will however, only be applied in cases of non economic damages such as pain and suffering. These are cases in which no fiscal damage can be quantified against the claimant. Success of Tort Reform The proposed legislation has been controversial since its implementation. There have been varied views on its effectiveness in reducing the costs of insurance to medical practitioners and health care in particular. Since its introduction, costs of insurance with regard to medical malpractice suits have come down to a degree though not to the level that had been projected (Eviatar, 2011). Insurers have been blamed for not bringing down their rates even as their costs have certainly come down with the introduction of the caps. Insurers have on the other hand defended themselves in saying that they the ceiling rate of $ 250,000 was still too high to make premiums come down substantially. Insurers are also of the opinion that setting such a ceiling would increase the tendency of juries awarding amounts that are near to the ceiling. They contend that there was a chance of lower awards if there is no ceiling than when there is a ceiling (Chepke, 2008). The legislation has however been successful in reducing the number of malpractice suits brought before courts since the incentive of huge monetary awards has been clipped. The measures to reduce the cost of healthcare is however not a function of medical malpractice premiums alone and more needs to be done to address the other factors that are driving up costs. References Eviatar, D. (2011). Tort Reform Unlikely to Cut Health Care Costs. The Washington Independent, 7(5), 5-6. Chepke, L. (2008). Medical Malpractice. Boston, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Williams, C., & Mello, M. (2006). Medical Malpractice: Impact of the Crisis and Effect of State Tort Reforms. New York: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Read More
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