The physicians' group letter makes several other arguments:
- The change would cost taxpayers over $1.5 billion and could act as a financial incentive for trial attorneys to file less meritorious lawsuits against physicians and other healthcare providers. The average cost per case, now an estimated $22,000, would increase, money that could otherwise be used to expand coverage for the uninsured.
- The Internal Revenue Service in 1997 says litigation expenses advanced by trial lawyers are not deductible regardless of whether a trial attorney uses a gross fee or net fee contract with clients.
- Proposed legislation now in the House and Senate "has failed to attract enough support to hold hearings on the issue, let alone be considered by either chamber."
The groups support a national cap on pain and suffering awards, similar to that in California and Texas, which does not exceed $250,000.
"The Congressional Budget Office found that medical liability reforms that include a quarter-million dollar cap on non-economic damages would reduce the federal budget deficit by about $54 billion over 10 years. As our nation works to reduce the growth in healthcare costs, it's clear that medical liability reform must be part of the solution."
Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.