As an insurance agent, I see the rising costs in all areas of insurance every day. One of the areas where these increases are causing the most damage is in medical malpractice. The cost of medical malpractice insurance is out of control in many states, including Tennessee. It is a main cause of the overall rising cost of health care.
Much of the reason health care costs are so high is lawsuits being filed that seek extreme damage awards for relatively harmless medical errors, and juries that seek to send messages through damage awards that can only be described as outrageous. These awards, which insurance companies must pay, cause the rates of every doctor practicing the type of medicine involved in the lawsuit to increase, not just the rates for that one doctor. Doctors’ insurance rates skyrocket to levels they can’t pay without charging excessive fees for their services.
Rural doctors, including some in the 13th District, are having a difficult time keeping their practices open due to the cost of keeping medical malpractice insurance. In several states such as West Virginia and Pennsylvania, doctors have been forced out of business by these costs.
I plan to introduce a bill that will place a limit on how much money juries can award in medical malpractice cases. There is a pronounced shortage of doctors throughout rural Tennessee, and the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance prevents most doctors from moving to these areas to give the care they have been trained to give. We cannot tell insurance companies how much they can charge to provide insurance, but we can keep control of outlandish jury awards that drive insurance costs so high that doctors are forced out of business.
We should be working to encourage doctors to practice in rural areas and keep doctors in business in rural areas. This legislation is one step we can take to do that, and to help make health care more affordable for all Tennesseans.