Malpractice caps are not the right move

Posted2/6/2011 11:25 AM

Malpractice caps are not the right move

Last week, your paper printed an article and an editorial that repeated falsehoods and misconceptions surrounding doctor supply in Illinois and perpetuated the myth that medical malpractice caps will lower health care costs. First, your article regarding doctors fleeing our state cited the Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine so-called study. The facts quoted from this "study" -- actually a survey -- are not even supported by the relevant data contained in it. The suggestion that graduating doctors are "fleeing" Illinois because of medical negligence cases in our courts is absurd. The "study" clearly states that the Chicago-area physician market is "oversaturated." In other words, we have more doctors -- in an area of the state with more than half the population -- than are otherwise needed. Does that sound like doctors fleeing? In addition, the survey showed a majority of those leaving Illinois are those that never planned to stay.


Second, your editorial called for caps on noneconomic damages. Enacting such a "uniform ceiling" will do nothing to bring down liability insurance premiums, attract doctors or, most importantly, protect patients from negligent doctors. This one-size-fits-all approach will only take away the constitutional rights of those injured by preventable medical errors while rewarding the wrongdoers and their insurance companies.

The focus should be on reforms that we know work, such as insurance reform. The insurance reforms contained in the 2005 law forced malpractice insurance companies to provide greater transparency on rate-setting and payouts that spurred competition and motivated more companies to enter the marketplace. These measures resulted in a reduction of malpractice premiums for doctors. Medical malpractice caps have been ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court three times. It's time to move the discussion forward and focus on the issue that will truly benefit doctors and patients -- meaningful insurance reform.

Todd A. Smith


Illinois Trial Lawyers Association