Study Shows Sharp Increase in TV Ads Soliciting Plaintiffs for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

By Susan Jones | September 8, 2009 | 11:41am EDT
( - Democrats demanding health-care reform are not saying much about medical malpractice lawsuits. But a new study indicates that tort reform should be included in any meaningful health care overhaul.
The study -- conducted for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform – says television advertisements soliciting plaintiffs for medical malpractice lawsuits increased from about 10,150 ads in 2004 to more than 156,000 ads in 2008. That’s nearly a 1,400 percent increase in four years.
Spending for those ads increased from $3.8 million to nearly $62 million during the same time period, the study shows.
"Lawsuits are ultimately a business driven by the plaintiffs' bar, and when you see the marketing of medical malpractice lawsuits exploding like this, it tells you that these lawsuits are a growing sector within the larger lawsuit industry," said Lisa A. Rickard, president of Institute for Legal Reform.
"This study is yet another piece of evidence that we need meaningful medical liability reform as a key ingredient of any workable healthcare reform package," said Rickard.
The head of Campaign Media Analysis Group, which conducted the study, said there’s a reason the number of ads has skyrocketed: "As with every other advertising sector, marketers tend to go with what is working," Evan Tracey said in a news release.
As previously reported, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told a town hall meeting in Virginia on Aug. 25 that congressional Democrats have not included tort reform in their various health care bills because they are fearful of “taking on” the trial lawyers.

“This is the answer from a doctor and a politician,” Dean said at the town hall meeting in Reston, Va. “Here is why tort reform is not in the bill. When you go to pass a really enormous bill like that, the more stuff you put in, the more enemies you make, right? And the reason why tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on, and that is the plain and simple truth. Now, that’s the truth.” (See video)

The American Medical Association is leading what it calls an “aggressive, multi-year campaign” to reduce medical liability premiums.
At the federal level, the AMA is pressing Congress to pass reforms including a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical liability cases.
According to the AMA, 79 percent of physicians practice “defensive medicine,” ordering additional medical tests in the hopes of avoiding medical liability lawsuits. This results in higher health care costs.
The AMA estimates that $70 billion to $126 billion could be saved each year if “reasonable” medical liability reforms were enacted.

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