Health Courts Would Curb 'Staggering Waste,' Attorney Says

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , October 18, 2012

While tort reform has been initiated in several states to reduce damages stemming from civil suits, Howard contends that those efforts do not erase the patchwork of various legal standards where a jury could find liability in one case, while a separate jury—dealing with same general facts—could find no liability. An administrative court for healthcare could set the stage for more efficient practices, he says.

Trial lawyers have opposed the concept, which Howard says is not surprising, since those lawsuits put plenty of money in their pockets. The lawyers say it's not just about the money, however.

In a 2007 study  professors Maxwell Mehlman and Dale Nance of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio characterized the health courts idea as an attempt to eliminate or reduce the rights of injured patients. Among other things, they wrote that "many valid claims would be arbitrarily limited or barred altogether" and "wrongdoers would not be held accountable."

Indeed, Howard says that while some Democrats and Republicans in Congress have initiated legislation for health courts, those efforts have stalled on Capitol Hill.

"There were a number of provisions for health care courts and they all got killed (by Democratic leadership) because the trial lawyers used their influence to block them," he says. "The political environment has to be such that there is an imperative to control costs, and that will have to trump the political influence of the trial lawyers. It's really that simple."

Within the next four years, either Obama or Romney will have no choice but to work on bending the healthcare cost curve, and health courts are a big step in that direction, Howard says. "The next Congress or next president is going to have to deal with those issues," he predicts.

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.
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9 comments on "Health Courts Would Curb 'Staggering Waste,' Attorney Says"

Marcos A. Vargas, MSHA, PA-C (7/5/2013 at 1:32 PM)
Mr. Tyco Brade post is erroneous & nonfactual or non evidence-based. Why? because the literature (surveys,research, analyses) allways point to the fact that defensive medicne is practiced by over 75% (up to 97%)of physicians in our country. And those are the facts and not skewed opinions.But then again most people don't fact check their informational sources.

Thomas Cox (12/1/2012 at 1:12 PM)
Virginia has had the strictest medical malpractice tort reform in the country since 1976 and it has helped hold malpractice premiums down, but health care costs in Virginia have increased at the same rate as everywhere else in the country. I am not against tort reform that makes for a quicker, fairer, and less expensive process, but don't look to tort reform to reduce the cost of health care. The evidence of the real world does not support this theory.

Michele (10/23/2012 at 9:11 AM)
There have been NO reductions in healthcare costs in states that have enacted tort reform. As a matter of fact, Texas has the most dilligent tort reform and they have the second highest healthcare costs in the nation according to CMS. Why don't individuals that want national tort reform respond to this?? Where is the proof????




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