Wisconsin Civil Justice Council: Medical liability legislation will increase health care costs

Bill would enrich trial lawyers at the expense of businesses and employees

Contact information: Bill G. Smith – (608) 255-6083

Madison – The Wisconsin Assembly will vote tomorrow on legislation that will drive up health care costs by expanding medical liability.

Senate Bill 203 expands “loss of society and companionship” damages for adult children and their parents in medical malpractice cases. Senate Bill 203 reverses two Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions that directly addressed the issue of whether loss of society and companionship damages should be expanded to adult children and their parents. Both cases, which were decided 6-0 and 6-1, summarily rejected expanding such damages.

“This legislation will unfortunately do nothing to bring about justice, but instead will line the pockets of plaintiffs’ attorneys. Rather than addressing the increases in medical costs, this legislation will lead to greater liability and higher health insurance premiums,” said Bill G. Smith, President of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council.

“Wisconsin businesses are struggling to add jobs during this economic downturn,” added Smith. “The last thing small businesses can afford are more health care costs that will make Wisconsin less competitive.”

According to recent studies, 93 percent of physicians report practicing “defensive medicine.” A significant number of tests are often ordered to stave off potential lawsuits. These extra tests lead to roughly $124 billion in unnecessary health care costs nationally.

Smith points to a recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) memorandum that analyzed certain reforms revealing that medical malpractice lawsuits drive up health care costs. The CBO study issued late last year found that enactment of certain malpractice law reforms could reduce the federal deficit by $54 billion over the next 10 years. In a revised statement, the CBO increased those savings by 6 percent to 10 percent.

“Instead of looking for new ways for trial attorneys to sue doctors, we instead should focus on ways to reduce health care costs,” said Smith. “We ask the Assembly to reject this legislation.”

During testimony on SB 203, an attorney that specializes in medical malpractice defense informed the Committee that in almost all medical malpractice cases involving the death of a patient, the decedent’s estate has a right to pursue damages for pre-death pain and suffering. Therefore, claims by the plaintiffs’ bar to the contrary simply are not valid.

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The Wisconsin Civil Justice Council, Inc. represents a vast coalition of Wisconsin business interests on emerging civil litigation challenges before the Legislature. For more information, see http://www.WisCivilJusticeCouncil.org.