Tort reform can force disability beneficiaries to stretch their already-meager budgets a bit further, since caps on medical malpractice awards mean that families have to find another source to pay for their medical expenses. Proponents of tort reform often point to the reduction in costs and better access to healthcare that tort reform should bring, but real world examples have not always borne those goals out.
California, for example, implemented certain reforms on medical malpractice lawsuits back in 1975. The over 31 years of data has provided a less than ringing endorsement of tort reform. Doctors’ insurance premiums continued to rise and, in fact, did not come under control under California passed another law in 1988 that created an insurance agency that approves and controls insurance rates. California’s cap on non-economic damages has not changed since 1975, staying put at $250,000 despite inflation and the exponential increase in medical costs.
In Texas, tort reform advocates said that reform would improve access to health care – it has, but not comparatively. Before reform, Texas was the twelfth worst state in the country in terms of physicians per 10,000 people. After reform, Texas dropped to the tenth worst. The number of doctors in Texas grew at a rate lower than every other state except eight.
While doctors’ medical malpractice premiums have dropped, Texans themselves continue to pay almost $700 more than the national average for family health coverage. Fewer employers in Texas offer health coverage to their workers than in the past. For employees who do have health coverage, Texans contribute nearly $800 more than the national average for their coverage. Most tort reform benefits in Texas, it appears, went to the doctors and not the people they treat.
Even if tort reform does not directly lead to cuts for public benefits, it does appear to do so indirectly, since disability beneficiaries will have to stretch their benefits further and further to pay for rising costs that tort reform was supposed to fix.
If your medical costs continued to rise, would your disability benefits stretch far enough to support you and your family?
Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability lawyers