Liability crisis threatens health care access

A poll released in March by the Health Coalition on Liability and Access reveals that Americans believe a growing crisis in health care liability is pushing health care costs up and forcing good doctors out of medical practice. Of those polled, 82% said their ability to get the health care they need is threatened by excessive litigation. Seventy-three percent believe that Congress should enact reforms to limit payments to trial lawyers from medical liability claims. Seventy-one percent favor changes to the law to guarantee full payment for lost wages and medical expenses and place common-sense limits on payments for noneconomic damages. The poll results reveal that most Americans believe:

• Access to quality health care is at risk: More than eight in 10 (82%) surveyed believe that doctors are being forced to leave their practices because excessive litigation has put the cost of medical liability insurance out of reach.

• Cost of health care rising due to excessive lawsuits: 72% said that health care expenses for all people are being driven up by the rising cost of medical liability lawsuits.

• Too many frivolous malpractice lawsuits: 55% said the high number of medical liability lawsuits is unjustified.

• Common-sense reforms are needed: 75% want Congress to pass reforms to fix the medical liability crisis; 72% favor a law that guarantees full payment for lost wages and medical expenses but limits noneconomic damages; 73% want to limit the amount of money personal injury trial lawyers can get from the excessive litigation settlements their clients receive.

The full report can be viewed at www.hcla.org.