How “Caps on Damages” Ruin Healthcare for Everyone

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How “Caps on Damages” Ruin Healthcare for Everyone

Perhaps one of the most debated tort restrictions is whether or not there should be “caps on damages” in medical malpractice cases.  New research revealed that the issue may now be indisputable. In research done by Northwestern University, five “cap” states were studied that also had Patient Safety Indicators for at least two years before the caps passed for comparison along with control states. Patient Safety Indicators are standard measures of often preventable adverse events and include things such as operative and post-operative errors, infections, birth-related errors, and diseases and sickness developed from hospitals.

The study found “consistent evidence that patient safety generally falls” once caps are passed. “The decline is widespread, and applies to both aspects of care that are relatively likely to lead to a malpractice suit and aspects that are unlikely to do so.” The study also found “the broad relaxation of care suggest that med mal liability provides ‘general deterrence’ – an incentive to be careful in general – in addition to any ‘specific deterrence’ it may provide for particular actions.”

Not only does the standard of care decrease, but the study discovered that “caps on damages” increase health care cost. More specifically, they found that “damage caps have no significant impact on hospital spending, but lead to 4-5 percent higher physician spending.” This may relate to the fact that in states where there are “caps” physicians practice riskier medicine or high risk procedures.

Lastly, the study found that whenever a state passes “caps on damages” the state does not attract doctors and majority of doctors the state does attract are plastic surgeons. Researchers say there is “no evidence that cap adoption predicts an increase in total patient care physicians, in specialties that face high med mal risk (except plastic surgeons), or in rural physicians.”

Whether you live in one of these states or not, this results of this research should worry you. It is important to be aware of hospital care and what kind of affects “tort reform” laws have on you and your healthcare.

Source: The Deterrent Effect of Tort Law: Evidence from Medical Malpractice Reform, Northwestern University, Huffington Post

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