On September 17, 2007, oral arguments in the lead case challenging the constitutionality of Public Act 94-677[medical malpractice caps] took place in the Courtroom of Cook County Judge Diane Larsen. The case at issue involves Abigaile LeBron, an infant. Her family is alleging medical malpractice led to her severe and permanent injuries. Lawyers on her behalf are arguing that the 2005 law placing caps on medical malpractice awards unfairly penalizes those people who are irreparably harmed due to medical errors.
Not surprisingly, the folks behind Illinois Medical Lawsuit Reform, promptly took out a page ad in local papers bashing trial lawyers and suggesting runaway verdicts had caused “out of control premiums” and led to a shortage of doctors in the state. Not so fast.
The Americans for Insurance Reform recently provided a study the found that payouts per doctor not only failed to increase from 2001-2004[the zenith of the alleged malpractice crisis]but were stable or falling. During that same time period, malpractice premiums skyrocketed. Author Robert Hunter, the Director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America noted “This report is proof positive that the huge medical malpractice insurance rate increases between 2000 and 2003 were not related to a jump in claims. Rather, as in the mid 1970’s and mid 1980’s, they were simply the result of insurance industry economics, supplemented by insurer hype intended to divert attention away from mismanagement by insurers the caused the crisis.” Insurers, as they have in the past, are running around moaning about malpractice, hoping to distract their insureds from looking into how they run their business.
Now the truth about doctor shortages. A recent study noted that the explanation for any doctor shortage is due to a policy instituted in the 1990’s by the MEDICAL COMMUNITY. The study noted that in the mid-90’s, the medical profession called for freezes on medical school slots, and cuts in residency funding. So let’s review. First, doctors decide to reduce the number of medical school graduates. Then they decide to defund residency programs to train the lucky few who were able to get a medical school spot. Natural result? Less doctors. And who do they blame? Lawyers of course. A perfect example of how the tort deform lobby is willing to twist the truth to pursue their agenda of restricting access to the courts. Oh, and one final twist. The study I am referring to can be found in March, 2007 Journal of American Medical Association. That’s right a medical association journal! The article describes how these policy decisions may help explain any doctor shortages.