Monday, February 8, 2010

Supreme Court sets bad public policy

In the Chicago Tribune Opinion "Supreme Court sets bad public policy" (February 8th, 2010) describes the consequences of striking down an Illinois law prohibiting exorbitantly high awards for malpractice lawsuits:
The law ended ridiculously high noneconomic (e.g. pain, suffering and loss of consortium or society) awards handed out in Illinois malpractice suits, especially in downstate Madison County, the malpractice lawyer's mecca. The law was effective, helping reduce medical costs and stemming the departure of Illinois health care providers because of excessively high malpractice insurance costs.
The article forgets one additional effect of such a law: it made bad doctors stay in the state. When the punishment for malpractice increases, so too does the cost of practicing medicine, especially for the worst (most likely to get sued) doctors. Of course, higher malpractice payouts should all get passed to consumers in the form of higher doctor's fees, because in the long run doctor location is elastic.

1 comment:

  1. The reality of the issue is that in malpractice case the extent of damages often reflects the ability of the plaintiff's attorney and the sympathetic nature of the plaintiff more than the actual magnitude of the injury. Perhaps there are more efficient remedies to bad doctors that burdening all the good doctors with the costs of absurdly high damage claims. If doctors are performing medical care badly then a system should be in place to detect and correct it whether the bad care happens to lead to a malpractice suit or not. Conversely the fact that a better attorney can manage to maneuver a jury unfamiliar with medicine into awarding an outrageous verdict regardless of the actual harm of the tort and even in a situation where it is unjustified is hardly fair or socially useful.