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MN Attorneys Dispute AP Poll that Americans Want Medical Malpractice Reform

November 23, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - A recent Associated Press (AP) poll on health care is sparking debate about whether there should be stricter controls on individuals seeking accountability for medical malpractice. According to the Minnesota Association for Justice, the poll is inaccurate, misleading and does little to enhance the debate on health care reform.

The poll reports that 54 percent of Americans say it should be harder for people to sue hospitals and doctors over alleged malpractice, while 32 percent oppose placing limits on medical malpractice litigation. Attorney Michael Bryant, president of the Minnesota Association for Justice, criticizes the AP poll for oversimplifying the malpractice debate. He says it ignores the accountability of insurers and health care providers and asks misleading questions.

Tort reform would not solve the nation's health care issues, Bryant adds.

"Right now the estimates are that 98,000 people die each year in this country due to medical errors. If you make it harder to bring those cases to court, I don't see how you're going to save more lives - you're going to kill more people."

Those in favor of tort reform say capping awards would reduce insurance premiums. Bryant denies that, saying there is no difference in consumers' insurance costs between states that cap damage awards and states that don't. In many cases, he adds, states that limit malpractice damages actually have significantly higher premiums.

Bryant cites Minnesota as a perfect example of a "healthy" health care system.

"We've got low rates, we've got a low number of malpractice cases and we've got great health care. If we're going to look at a state as an example to follow, Minnesota should be the one we're looking at. Policymakers should embrace a comprehensive set of solutions that focus on quality care, patient safety, accountability for providers and insurors and protection of all patients in the health care system."

Currently, Minnesota does not limit the amount of actual damages a jury can award. The state is ranked 50th lowest in medical malpractice insurance premiums, according to the Medical Liability Monitor.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MN