Your Opinion: Restore tort reform for health care

Dear Editor:

Your readers who were here in the early 2000s can recall how Missouri was mired in a medical lawsuit crisis that threatened access to health care in Jefferson City and every corner of the state.

Lawsuit insurance premiums skyrocketed, medical practices closed, physicians were forced to abandon risky procedures such as surgery and delivering babies, and many others simply left the state. In 2005, the Missouri General Assembly responded by enacting a common-sense, bipartisan tort reform measure that slowed runaway litigation and stabilized the health care environment. A reasonable limit on non-economic damages was the linchpin of that measure, and the results were dramatic.

The number of lawsuits filed in Missouri dropped substantially, the lawsuit insurance market stabilized, and insurance premiums became affordable again. As a result, physicians returned to Missouri to practice. In the three years leading up to tort reform, Missouri lost 225 physicians to the lawsuit crisis. Since the first full year of reform, more than 1,000 additional physicians are providing care within our borders. And despite gaining all those physicians since tort reform went into effect, Missouri has seen a $27 million decrease in insurance premiums they paid.

This is money that did not go to fighting lawsuits, but stayed in the health care system, creating jobs and providing better services and access to care. Unfortunately, last summer the Missouri Supreme Court threw out the limit on non-economic damages, touching off evidence-based forecasts of the very same conditions that crippled the health care system a decade ago.

Fortunately, however, the state Legislature is working to fix the problem before it’s too late. Senate Bill 105 and House Bill 112 would restore the vitally-important cap on non-economic damages and restore balance to the state’s tort system. A large coalition of concerned citizens, health care providers, business leaders, and others has formed in support of the effort.

Every other Missourian should do their share and encourage their senators and representatives to support the effort as well.

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