MEDICAL MALPRACTICE….Dwight Meredith has a couple of good posts up on medical malpractice reform. In the first one, I learn that the lone Democrat to support caps on pain and suffering awards (“noneconomic damages”), my own Dianne Feinstein, has withdrawn her name from the bill. Why? Because she wanted to compromise on a cap of $500,000 with a $2 million limit under certain exceptional circumstances.
Apparently, though, this ran into problems not just with Republican ideologues, but with doctors too. This really doesn’t make sense, as Dwight points out, since if a $500,000 cap won’t keep premiums down then there’s no real reason to think that a $250,000 cap will work either. (On a related point, we’ve had a $250,000 cap in California for two decades, and it hasn’t been adjusted for inflation since the day it was passed.)
In his second post he addresses the complaint of a reader from Nevada who asks, “If you live in Las Vegas and you can’t find an OB because they’ve all left town, will you wave these stats around when you are in labor in a crowded ER?” But as Dwight points out, Nevada already has a cap on noneconomic damages. And the hellhole of Florida, frequently trotted out as another problem area, also has caps. So if it hasn’t worked in those two places, why should it work anywhere else?
My reading on this admittedly confusing subject has led me to believe that there are some reasonable things that could be done to reform medical malpractice and lower premiums for doctors. But as near as I can tell, damage caps aren’t one of them. However, they are easy to explain and easy to demagogue about, and I suspect that’s why Republicans keep flogging them.