Michigan Medical Malpractice Tort Reform – Lies and More Lies
By: Eric Steinberg
It is a sad day in Michigan. Civil justice and our constitutional right to a trial by jury are on the brink of being taken away again by insurance companies and their lobbyists.
The batch of medical malpractice tort “reform” bills currently pending in committee of the Michigan state senate will be devastating if enacted. Taken together, basically these bills end the ability of people negligently injured by a medical mistake to bring a claim for compensation.
The bills create such a huge burden to prove liability that it will almost be impossible to bring most claims.
They grant immunity from doctors in the emergency room and most mistakes that come out of the emergency room. It allows a judge to simply take a case away from a jury and throw it out if he or she believes the physician acted with “reasonable and good faith belief” the physician’s conduct “well founded in medicine” and “in the best interest of the patient”. So much for a person’s right to a trial by jury I guess.
These bills also change the way compensation is granted to victims of medical malpractice. Victims who are actually successful in obtaining compensation will get less money.
But what’s so ridiculous is how unnecessary these bills are. There is no crisis. In fact, due to no less than three rounds of medical malpractice tort reform over the years, according to the State of Michigan Office of Insurance Regulation, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits decreased by 77% decrease between 2000 to 2007. This has only resulted in a modest drop in insurance premiums for doctors. Instead, insurance companies have made out like bandits while everyday people and their families struggle to pay the staggering medical bills and treatment costs for malpractice victims.
The insurance companies and their lobbyists are coming out with the usual lines regarding the need for still more medical malpractice “reform.” The most popular line is we are losing much needed doctors due to expensive medical malpractice premiums and defensive medicine. This is just a bald face lie.
A lobbyist for the malpractice bills stated these new laws are needed because there’s a shortage of primary care doctors in Michigan, presumably because of medical malpractice. However, this shortage has nothing to do with medical malpractice premiums and the fear of getting sued. Instead it has everything to do with low reimbursement rates from insurers, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as low pay for family medicine doctors.
If you are a newly minted doctor coming out of medical school with a $100,000 or more in debt, are you going to choose to specialize in family medicine which is one of the lowest paying specialties in the entire field, or would you choose some other specialty with higher pay and a better work-life balance.
The decision is easy.
The fact of the matter is the latest medical malpractice onslaught is an insurance company led push to take advantage of the current political winds. Their CEOs, shareholders and lobbyists understand now is the time to effectively end medical malpractice in the state of Michigan.
But pushing the costs of care due to medical mistake from insurance companies to taxpayers should not be the end game. Insurance companies are there for a reason – to cover losses. It shouldn’t fall on our state’s Medicaid system and taxpayers to foot the bill for medical mistakes.
It’s these basic common sense reasons I ask everyone to contact the State Senator from their district and demand they vote down these unfair and un-American bills. They only benefit insurance companies, their shareholders and lobbyists while screwing victims and Michigan taxpayers.