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What is Tort Reform? How Does Tort Reform Relation to Healthcare Reform?


Updated October 16, 2008

Question: What is Tort Reform? How Does Tort Reform Relation to Healthcare Reform?

As American healthcare has become more dysfunctional, patient safety has been negatively affected. Each year, more than a million Americans are injured or become sicker from medical mistakes or carelessness. About 100,000 of them die from those errors.

Thousands of those patients, or the families of those who died, file malpractice lawsuits in reaction to the violations. Medical malpractice is considered a "tort," meaning it is against the law as a crime of negligence, indicating that someone can be blamed for that negligence.

The idea of holding someone accountable for negligence seems fair. Doctors and others insure themselves so that if they make a mistake, that malpractice insurance will pay the patient or family for their negligence.

The costs for malpractice, both from the provider's need for insurance and the amounts determined in lawsuits (which may run in the millions), though, have spiraled out of control. Further, the costs involved in the legal aspects, for lawyers and court costs, add to those spiraling costs.

Experts in healthcare reform consider tort reform to be included in the issues that must be considered as the system is reformed. Potential types of tort reform may include putting caps on the amount that can be sued for, limiting defensive medical services and eliminating frivolous lawsuits.

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