Monthly Archives: February 2005

Tort Reform Obscures The Real Issue: Quality Medical Care

I recently received a copy of AARP Alaska Legislative Priorities, dated February 21, 2005. I think the organization has correctly characterized the latest attempt at “tort reform” here in Alaska:

SB 67, authored by Senator Ralph Seekins, will reduce the amount of “pain and suffering” awards from the current maximum of $400,000 to $250,000. The author argues that medical costs are high because of medical malpractice lawsuits. AARP opposes this bill because awards are relatively rare and generally imposed in only the most egregious cases and are not a significant factor in malpractice premium problems. We are encouraging the author to avoid the “lawyer/doctor” debate and instead focus on how we can reduce medical errors. The Institute of Medicine has several recommendations for reducing medical errors that harm people. AARP feels that avoiding errors is much more important than focusing on legal negligence. The IOM has prepared several background pieces on medical error reduction which should be the basis for this bill. We oppose SB 67 unless it can be amended to focus on medical error reduction.

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Beware of Senate Bill No. 67

Senate Bill No. 67 is bad public policy because, on the one hand, it is unlikely to perform as promised by the sponsors, but, on the other hand, it severely limits our rights to fair compensation for injuries or death perpetrated by negligent health care providers. Here is the key provision of the bill:

The damages awarded by a court or a jury under [c] of this section for all claims including a loss of consortium claim or other derivative claim arising out of a single injury or death may not exceed $250,000 regardless of the number of health care providers against whom the claim is asserted or the number of separate claims or causes of action brought with respect to the injury or death. [e] Multiple injuries sustained by one person as a result of a single course of treatment shall be treated as a single injury for purposes of this section.

So, no matter how many negligent, drunk, or impaired physicians, nurses, technicians, and medical assistants are responsible for the injury or death of you or your child, this “tort reform” bill limits the award to a quarter million dollars. No matter how much “pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, [or] loss of enjoyment of life” you, your loved one, or your child will suffer, this bill limits the award to a quarter million dollars. Read the rest of this entry

Welcome to the ACPP Blog

Welcome to the Alaska Center for Public Policy (ACPP), Alaska’s independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank. We do two things here at the Center: public policy analysis and research, and program evaluation. The Center is committed to the development of public policies and programs that improve the economic and social wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities. The Center focuses on sound solutions to the challenges faced by low- and moderate-income Alaskans. We celebrate the diversity of heritage and lifestyle in Alaska because every community is important. Read the rest of this entry