Remove Medical Malpractice Reform from Trump Budget

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Crop doctor with stethoscope in hospital

The Trump Administration’s budget proposal for 2018 includes another attempt to pass tort reform for medical malpractice lawsuits. We strongly oppose this effort to weaken compensation for injury victims and urge you to inform your elected representatives that you do not support it.

The proposal includes a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages. This means that if are injured as a result of your doctor’s malpractice, your maximum compensation for pain and suffering because of permanent disability, disfigurement, blindness, loss of a limb, paralysis and other injuries is limited. Non-economic damages like these are typically not easily quantified by a damage amount.

The $250,000 amount is extremely low. California capped its non-economic damages at $250,000 in 1975. Adjusted for inflation, the amount would now be more than $1.1 million.

The Trump Administration is unlikely to see the $55 billion in savings it estimates because of its tort reforms. A 2017 study on medical malpractice reform in the Journal of Health Economics found that states that pass damage caps see a 4% increase in Medicare Part B spending and that caps could increase total Medicare spending by 2-3%. If patients are unable to recover for their injuries from doctors and medical facilities, their only option is to rely more on government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance.

Medical errors are the third leading cause of death claiming more than 251,000 lives a year according to research by Johns Hopkins. Medical malpractice reform in some states, such as Wisconsin, have made lawsuits from medical errors nearly impossible to win.

The net effect of the proposed reform is that individuals injured by medical malpractice will have a tougher time finding an attorney willing to advance the costs of their litigation to recover for their injuries. The potential budget savings are simply not worth the cost to the families of victims suffering medical errors.