As promised, Gov. Bill Haslam has set out to improve Tennessee’s health care and business climate. The Tennessee Medical Association is in full support of his tort reform proposal, which includes fair upper limits on non-economic (“pain and suffering”) damages in health care liability as well as personal injury cases.
Legislative reforms in 2008 helped to improve Tennessee’s medical liability climate but we still rank high in the nation for the amount of damages paid in medical malpractice cases. Access to care remains a big concern, especially in our rural communities, and too many physicians are still practicing “defensive medicine” just in case they are sued. There is still work to be done.
The governor’s tort reform bill (SB1522/HB2008) will address these medical issues as well as make strides to improve our overall business climate, create jobs and get our economy moving again.
Limits on medical malpractice lawsuits will reduce physicians’ tendencies to order those extra tests, which are needed more to answer courtroom questions than to improve patient outcomes. Fewer unnecessary tests and procedures will mean lower costs, which will in turn lead to lower insurance premiums for enrollees.
The less medical practices have to pay out in attorneys’ fees and liability insurance rates, the greater the investment they can make in resources to improve patient care, such as electronic health records, keeping and expanding patient care staff and purchasing newer diagnostic equipment — all of which mean better care for Tennesseans.
A better business climate also means we can keep the medical doctors we have and attract more to Tennessee. That equates to more jobs. Physicians are business people; we pay rent and taxes, lease equipment and hire workers. Likewise, a community with good healthcare services is more attractive to new employers, resulting in even more jobs and revenue.
Let your state senator and representative know that you support Gov. Haslam’s tort reform bill because it will lead to a healthier economy and healthier Tennesseans.
B.W. Ruffner, Jr., MD
President, Tennessee Medical Association