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"Tort Deform" Masquerading as Tort Reform Harms Citizens

New York Times reported February 21, 2005 that insurance company premium increases for medical malpractice insurance have no relationship to jury awards. The cause is insurance company investment losses. This reveals the truth: the insurance industry uses false data and conclusions to push “tort reform”. It should be called “tort deform.”

The Harvard School of Public Health reports that hundreds of thousands of patients sustain serious preventable injuries in American hospitals every year. These injuries are often permanently debilitating.

Federal political leaders wrongly complain about costs of lawsuits against doctors and hospitals. They know better: 2004 payments for malpractice claims against doctors actually declined by 9%. Insurance companies raise malpractice premiums for doctors to cover their losses from bad investments. They raised all insurance premiums after the stock market declined; doctors’ premiums are no different.

Yet, insurance company executive compensation remained unjustifiably high. A recent study of the insurance industry executive compensation, published in the July 2002 edition of THE INSURANCE FORUM, reveals that at least 79 insurance industry executives received compensation of $5 million or more in 2001. In fact, 18 CEO’s were paid $10 million or more. The top paid insurance CEO received over $48 million in 2001. For 20 years, insurers and their top executives pled poverty; they persistently lobbied to deprive sick and injured Americans of their right to fair compensation for injuries caused by wrong doing of all kinds. Executives apparently reward themselves for the success of their ad campaigns with ever- increasing self-serving pay made possible by paying out less and less to insured persons and claimants.

Politicians know capping medical malpractice suits has little or no impact on medical costs or premiums. Florida capped damages, but has the highest medical malpractice premiums in the country. Seven (7) of the 10 highest cost medical malpractice insurance premium states have capped damages. When insurance executives take away rights of sick and injured, premiums are not reduced. Executives just make more money!

Our Founding Fathers, and our soldiers since then, have fought hard to protect our Constitution. The right to a fair trial by a jury of our peers, rather than some government official, is a basic Constitutional right. It is as important as free speech and property rights. But insurance company CEO’s want politicians to take these rights away. Citizen’s should not be fooled by “tort deform” efforts to diminish our democracy.

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