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Does tort reform affect insurance rates?

In my radio interview last week, I was asked about the Wisconsin Association of Trial Lawyers' claim that tort reform measures have no effect on medical insurance rates. ATLA's "fact sheet" on medical malpractice reform makes the same claim. A 2003 HHS compilation of studies on the matter, linked on our old medical page, refutes that proposition. (HHS, "Confronting the New Health Care Crisis", Mar. 3, 2003 at Tables 6 and 7).

The CJD's accusation of "racism" against tort reformers (Mar. 19) was based in part on the following reasoning: Minorities have poorer access to affordable health-care; minorities are therefore more likely to suffer from medical malpractice; minorities are therefore more likely to be "disproportionately" affected by medical malpractice reform; therefore, tort reformers are racist. (I'm reminded of the old joke that posits that when the world ends, the New York Times's subhead will be "Women, Minorities Hardest Hit.") Of course, by that reasoning, tort reform opponents are "racist" because they oppose a measure that would make health care more affordable for minorities, and the main beneficiary of this opposition is the (disproportionately white) trial lawyer bar. This website assumes no liability for any damages caused by you holding your breath waiting for the CJD to come to that equally faulty conclusion.

Update: Jon Klick points me to his paper with Thomas Stratmann, "Does Medical Malpractice Reform Help States Retain Physicians and Does it Matter?" (October 2, 2003), which finds that damages caps reduces infant mortality rates among African-Americans by increasing the likelihood of ob-gyn doctors to locate in-state, thus increasing the availability of pre-natal care.

[cross-posted from Overlawyered, where it ran Mar. 22, 2004]

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.