The Republicans Misguided Tort Reform Plan

Caps on Damages in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Candidate Trump ran on repealing and replacing Obamacare. However, in a misguided attempt to lower healthcare costs, President Trump and the GOP now want to bundle extreme tort reform measures into the Obamacare replacement plan. This favors corporations in violation of the Constitution.

Trump Tort Reform Plan Protects Nursing Home Corporations


7th Amendment to the US Constitution Protects Litigants Access to Courts

The 7th Amendment is codified in the Bill of Rights and serves as an integral part of America’s foundation of freedom. No longer does a king, judge or oligarch decide civil disputes. Instead, an aggrieved party can take the matter before a jury and have her peers decide the value of the harm done. The exact text reads as follows:

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.


The Republican House Tort Reform Plan

H.R. 1215 is a “medical liability reform bill” that limits a victim’s non-economic damages at $250,000. This means if a nursing home withholds water from your mother and kills her, her life can be valued, at most, at $250,000. If a doctor amputates the wrong leg on a 10 year old patient, the most pain and suffering that child can recover for the remainder of their life is $250,000. This $250,000 cap on human damages would be disastrous to the civil justice system. Instead of facing serious financial accountability for the wrongful death of a patient, negligent nursing homes, hospitals and doctors could breathe easy knowing that the cost of killing someone is only $250,000. Aside from removing the deterrent factor from bad patient care, H.R. 1215 takes the power out of the hands of a jury and into the hands of D.C. politicians. This is a ‘yuuuge’ power grab and a direct violation of our constitutional rights as Americans.

Caps on Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases: The Stated Cause

The rallying cry for caps on non-economic damages has been the same for decades. “We need to protect healthcare providers!” “We have a doctor crisis!” “This will lower your healthcare costs!” All these justifications sound good in theory, but sadly, none are backed up in fact.

Caps on Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases: The Actual Effect

The true effect of caps on damages is less accountability for bad nursing homes and healthcare providers. This emboldens these negligent parties to put profits ahead of people and provide substandard care.

But tort reform keeps doctors in practice! No, it does not. Medical malpractice awards have little impact on a doctor or nursing home’s ability to make money.

But what about our healthcare crisis due to ‘frivolous lawsuits’? Proven untrue time and time again. These ‘crises’ are manufactured events falsely attributed to legal actions.

But large jury awards do not change medicine, they just make the victim’s family rich! Untrue. Anesthesiology is just one of many examples. In the 1970s and ’80s, there were numerous multi-million dollar verdicts against anesthesiologists due to bad care. Due to these awards, the American Society of Anesthesiologists revised procedures and redesigned machines. Ten years later, the mortality rate in anesthesiology matters plummeted and their insurance rates fell to among the lowest in the nation. Lawsuits are responsible for similar innovations in seat belts, tobacco advertising, product safety and food labels.

An Open Civil Justice System is a Necessary Check on Power

Our Founding Fathers understood the importance of putting power in the hands of the people. A tort system with open courthouse doors allows juries to evaluate losses, not the powerful. The ensures at-fault parties can be held accountable, whether they are retirees or Fortune 500 CEO’s. Each year, lobbyists on behalf of big insurance and big healthcare dump millions of dollars into buying votes to minimize your access to the civil justice system.

The overall impact of medical malpractice, including all tangents of defensive medicine, still only accounts for only 2.4% of healthcare costs.

“Some of the more vocal opponents to health care reform have long argued that doing away with medical malpractice would go a long way towards solving a major cost problem in the system. Given the small percentage of the health care dollar spent on medical malpractice issues, that would hardly appear to be the case.” – Forbes Investigation into Tort Reform.

We Need Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits to Ensure Good Resident Care

Caps on Nursing Home Abuse Damages HR 1215

Most nursing homes today are run by massive, for-profit companies that focus only on their bottom line profits. The Board of Directors of these corporations make the budget decisions. They are not doctors or nurses. They have MBA’s.

Profit is why they go to work everyday. Profit is why they staff 3 CNA’s on the floor unit instead of 4. Profit is why they chose the dinner menu being served to residents tonight. Profit determines every decision from top to bottom inside a nursing home corporation. There is little governmental agency punishment for nursing home negligence. Nursing home corporations fear being held accountable in front of a jury of regular people for killing or injuring vulnerable residents. In a for-profit corporate nursing home business model, the fear of a large nursing home abuse verdict greatly improves patient care.


Hypocrisy and Lies

  • Ironically, private citizen Trump has been the most litigious president in American history. If he signs a bill similar to H.R. 1215 into law, he will effectively be closing the same courthouse doors he entered so frequently.
  • The Republican Party claims to be the party of small government, returning the power to the people. Why would the G.O.P. support a large federal mandate like this? Why would an alleged small government party legislate Federal Government interference with a citizen’s constitutional right to a civil jury?
  • If we know that caps on damages do not substantially reduce healthcare costs in the country, why does the Republican Party insist on pushing this bill through Congress? Might it be due to the $20 million donated by the Healthcare lobby to GOP lawmakers in 2016?

The Takeaway Message

Don’t buy what the lobbyists are selling. A civil jury system serves as a foundation for freedom in this country. Pro-corporate legislation cloaked in the disguise of lowered healthcare costs is a myth, proved untrue time and time again. A recent Public Policy Polling survey confirms that voters in the seven states polled are decisively against H.R. 1215 and 77% of voters had concerns about the bill’s stripping away of their legal protections as patients.

No one should be able to get away with murder. There should be no discount on justice.