As we enter the second month of President Trump’s administration, we await the changes that will be made to the Affordable Care Act, and whether or not the president stays true to his campaign promises to gut the program. One area that is of concern when it comes to the tort reform promised is the future of medical malpractice claim processing.
Medical malpractice is not specifically addressed in the Affordable Care Act, so it has been speculated that the Trump Administration will not make it a priority as Obamacare undergoes transformation. But, the newly confirmed Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, has long held the opinion that there is a medical malpractice crisis in the country, and that something must be done about.
Price contends that the problem is frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits that drive up malpractice insurance premiums for physicians, forcing many of them to abandon their practices. Out of the fear of potential lawsuits, remaining doctors order excessive diagnostic tests and treatments, making the cost of healthcare unaffordable for many Americans.
The replacement bill that Price advocates would create state administrative tribunals for medical malpractice cases rather than jury trials. Price, the first doctor to be named Secretary of Health and Human Services since Dr. Louis W. Sullivan left the position in January 1993, also promotes placing caps on medical malpractice damages along with compliance with clinical practice guidelines being used as a defense in malpractice claims. This would result in doctors having an easier time defending themselves in malpractice cases, as increased responsibility would fall on plaintiffs to prove negligence.
As per Joe Osborne, a Boca Raton medical malpractice lawyer stated “Public safety is at stake. Medical malpractice reform, which eliminates or significantly reduces a victim’s ability to bring a case is equivalent to a medical system of chaos. There will no checks and balances and patients and loved ones will suffer greatly.”
Despite Price’s claims that there is, in fact, a crisis with medical malpractice lawsuits, researchers and industry experts disagree. They contend that the country’s medical malpractice insurance industry is not in crisis that it has been operating effectively for the last decade. They cite the fact that doctors are paying less for medical malpractice insurance premiums than they did in 2001 and that current conditions are making it easier than ever for doctors to acquire insurance, as proof that Price’s allegations are not accurate.
It remains to be seen what exactly will happen with regard to medical malpractice and tort reform in this new Trump administration. While Price has long supported lawsuit abuse reform, medical malpractice reform is not specifically being reported as high on his list of priorities in his new appointment. Abortion legislation, Planned-Parenthood funding, and changes to Medicare and Medicaid payments top the list of reported areas of change – and disruption to the current Affordable Care Act – that will likely take precedence over any changes in the medical malpractice arena.
That doesn’t mean that there won’t be specific and significant changes proposed to medical malpractice law in the future, but it seems that it will be done separately from the impending repeal of Obamacare promised by the Trump administration. It will be an interesting battle to keep an eye on in the coming months.