Moving Beyond the Quick Fix: Medical Malpractice Non-Economic Damage Caps a Poor Solution to the Growing Healthcare Crisis

There is no doubt that the United States is facing a healthcare crisis.  The United States has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, spending billions more than any industrialized nation. Despite the astronomical cost of our healthcare system, Americans continue to go without access to affordable and quality healthcare and affordable prescription medication. For example, nearly forty-two million Americans were uninsured in 2013. One in four working-age Americans did not have insurance at some point in 2013.  Over sixty percent of all bankruptcies are a result of unpaid medical bills.  The United States ranks highest in medical cost per capita, but ranks twenty-sixth in the world for average life expectancy. Over the past decade, there has been a growing movement among the medical community and state legislatures to address the healthcare crisis through the capping of non-economic damages for medical malpractice lawsuits. The focus of these caps is to limit damages that relate to pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship and punitive damages, but does not limit damages based on any economic losses. Proponents of caps point to the success of caps implemented in several states as proof that the caps are a viable solution.  However, their data is grossly inflated and misleading.  Moreover, caps are likely to breed more malpractice, are unconstitutional, and are likely to punish those who suffer the most—women, children, and the elderly.

 

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