Sarah Palin called on lawmakers to recognize the interrelationship between healthcare reform and tort reform. Accessed Sept. 16, 2009. Available at Photo
courtesy of Bruce Tuten


Published 10/1/2009

Healthcare reform requires tort reform

Palin blog cites AAOS Now in calling for legal reforms

To make access to the greatest medical care in the world affordable for all its citizens, America’s healthcare system needs reform, Sarah Palin wrote in her blog (Aug. 21, 2009). Ms. Palin called for real bipartisan reform, which would have a real impact on the cost and quality of patient care.

To achieve that goal, said Ms. Palin, lawmakers must recognize that healthcare reform and tort reform are intertwined.

Quoting Scott Gottlieb, MD, Ms. Palin wrote, “If Mr. Obama is serious about lowering costs, he’ll need to reform the economic structures in medicine—especially programs like Medicare.” She went on to identify two examples of these economic structures—high medical liability insurance premiums and defensive medicine.

To support her argument, Ms. Palin quoted Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, past president of the AAOS and current chair of the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee. In the November 2008 issue of AAOS Now, Dr. Weinstein wrote: “The medical liability crisis has had many unintended consequences, most notably a decrease in access to care in a growing number of states and an increase in healthcare costs. Access is affected as physicians move their practices to states with lower liability rates and change their practice patterns to reduce or eliminate high-risk services. When one considers that half of all neurosurgeons—as well as one third of all orthopaedic surgeons, one third of all emergency physicians, and one third of all trauma surgeons—are sued each year, is it any wonder that 70 percent of emergency departments are at risk because they lack available on-call specialist coverage?”

Ms. Palin went on to cite statistics from the article supporting the costs that an out-of-control tort system are creating.

If costs are the reason that President Obama wants to “nationalize” the healthcare industry, why don’t his efforts include tort reform, asked Ms. Palin. “Furthermore,” she wrote, “why continue to encourage defensive medicine that wastes billions of dollars and does nothing for the patients? Do we want healthcare reform to benefit trial attorneys or patients?”

Ms. Palin proposes extending legislation—such as caps on awards—that is already in place in some states to the nation as a whole. Other reform steps, she said, would include limiting lawyer contingency fees, as under the Federal Tort Claims Act, and preventing “quack” doctors from giving “expert” testimony in court against real doctors. She cited the “loser-pays” rule, which is aimed at deterring frivolous civil law suits by making the loser pay a portion of the winner’s legal bills.

Noting the influx of doctors to Texas after that state enacted tort reform measures, Ms. Palin said that tort reforms “brought critical specialties to underserved areas.” Finally, she wrote, if legal reform could save nearly $200 billion per year, as Dr. Weinstein’s research showed, “That’s money that could be used to build roads, schools, or hospitals. If we want to save healthcare, let’s listen to our doctors.”