Talk of tort reform

By: - October 31, 2008 1:46 pm

At various committee meetings around the General Assembly there has been chatter recently about revisiting caps on medical malpractice claims.

It used to be that lawmakers, especially physician-lawmakers, would use the increase in health care costs as a justification for tort reform. But now that the medical spending argument has been thoroughly discredited, legislators are beginning to formulate a new argument.

The idea is that even if we gave everyone health insurance there would not be enough primary care physicians to treat them. And what is the reason for the shortage of primary care physicians? You guessed it: malpractice premiums!

The one wrinkle with the argument is that it’s not true.

As the NC Institute of Medicine and the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, among others, have shown, there are many reasons for primary care physician shortages most of which have to do with pay and the number of residency programs.

Usually those practicing obstetrics and gynecology have the highest malpractice premiums, and most estimates indicate that there is not an OB/GYN shortage in the state.

Primary care physicians have huge debt loads from medical school and then make an average of $160,000 per year compared to $449,147 for Anesthesiology and $427,644 for Urology.

There are many steps we can take as a state that will address the shortage of primary care physicians. Tort reform is not one of them.

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