Your Opinion: Don’t buy recycled tort reform propaganda

Dear Editor:

Legislature is in session so let the propaganda peddling on tort reform begin. Despite what we’re told, there was no mass exodus of doctors from Missouri nor were mothers forced to extend the gestation period of their pregnancies waiting for doctors to return to the state after tort reform legislation passed.

The American Medical Association says the overall number of physicians was up more than 40 percent since 1990, long before “tort reform” was sold as the way to save us from “doctor shortages.” The Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimates as many as 98,000 people die every year at the cost of $29 billion due to preventable medical errors. If the Center for Disease Control made preventable medical errors a cause of death category, it ranks 6th as a cause of death in America.

Health care costs skyrocket but not as a result of lawsuits. The Congressional Budget Office found medical malpractice amounted to less than two percent of health care spending. The Government Accountability Office found malpractice cases have not widely affected access to health care.

Let’s focus on the real issue — improving health care and reducing health care costs. The health care industry is in business to make money. If malpractice insurance premiums decreased after the first round of tort reform, these “savings” were never passed on to patients in terms of lower health care costs. These savings also do not improve the quality of our health care. The World Health Organization ranks America 37th out of 191 participating countries in overall health care efficiency, quality, and performance.

Tort reform has not given us higher quality, more affordable health care. Tort reform slams the courthouse doors in the faces of the citizens that courts are created to protect. Your Constitution guarantees the right to trial by a jury of your peers. Special interests use the fear of “losing business” or “losing doctors” to prey on our access to courts because it is cheaper to ignore mistakes than to correct them.

The civil justice system works to make sure all of us have a fair chance to correct a mistake should we need it. Let’s spend more time improving treatment quality and less time lobbying to keep injured people out of courtrooms.

Don’t buy the recycled propaganda tort reformist are selling. Tell your legislators you are OK with a jury of your peers deciding cases in the open as our Constitution intended.

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