Medical Liability Reform

Wednesday, August 4, 2010 - 8:00pm


At least 20 states are in crisis because soaring health care liability costs and an inability to access liability insurance have caused medical providers to move out of the increasing number of excessively litigious states and have forced hospitals to suspend services.

Remove medical malpractice claims from the tort system. Create special administrative health courts (similar to bankruptcy courts and a wide range of administrative courts, including for worker's compensation, Social Security, and vaccine liability). Need to end the randomness of jury awards and bring stability to the medical liability insurance system by providing a solid legal foundation to promote better and more affordable health care.

Without access to practicing physicians and high quality medical facilities, local chambers cannot attract businesses to locate in their areas or recruit highly talented employees to relocate. Additionally, excessive litigation and high medical malpractice rates have added to employers' health care costs and spurred some providers to "err on the side of caution" that comes at the expense of both health plan dollars and patients receiving unnecessary service. This issue isn't just about physicians — its effects cut across the health care sector. Hospitals need physicians to admit patients. Companies that manufacture medical devices and pharmaceuticals need physicians to use and prescribe their products.

The U.S. Chamber and its affiliate, the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), continue to work very hard to build support in Congress for the passage comprehensive health system liability reform in the 111th Congress. Excessive litigation and high medical lawsuit costs have increased employers' health care costs and spurred some providers to "err on the side of caution," leading to increases in health care spending and in the volume of unnecessary services that are provided.

U.S. Chamber Position

We back legislation that would:

  • Cap non-economic damages ($250,000)
  • Make each party liable solely for its share of damages and not others
  • Allow periodic payments of future damages in excess of $50,000
  • Impose a sliding scale cap on attorneys' fees
  • Impose a statute of limitations

Medical liability is a significant cost-driver in the medical system that has not been addressed in existing legislation. Meaningful health reform must take on this subject by implementing caps on punitive damages that punish doctors and hospitals, creating specialized health courts, allowing medical expert panels to dismiss frivolous cases, making the loser of medical torts pay the other side's legal expenses, and capping excessive trial lawyer reimbursements. Jurisdictional issues should not prevent inclusion of medical liability reform provisions – even if the Judiciary Committee must be brought into the process. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that medical liability reform and reductions in defensive medicine could save up to $500 billion over a decade. This issue is yet another reason not to rush through legislation.

Health Care Liability Reform Webcast (February 11, 2003)

Letter to Rep. Greenwood in Support of the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-Cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2003 (February 5, 2003)