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MICRA: Tort Reform from California

Tort reform is one of the pillars of the conservative health reform strategy, and though definitely not cost-containment’s silver bullet there is widespread recognition on some of the effects of medical liability. Beyond excessive costs in malpractice insurance and some medical malpractice payouts, there is concern that much of the driving force of health service costs/overuse is a fear in providers given a medical condition ending in negative consequence: the good doctor could be accused of not using all the tools at their disposal and be subject to a malpractice lawsuit. As a result, any and all tests are performed. Though more care does not always equal better care, docs can at least protect themselves through defensive medicine, i.e. ‘better safe than sorry.’

Tort reform could help protect providers from disgruntled patients and the lucrative tort law industry, while also reducing national health expenditure. A recent CBO score shows that such reform could reduce the federal deficit by $54 billion over 10 years. A coworker recently brought this piece to my attention, speaking to a program that I was not very familiar with. It just so happens that California enacted sweeping tort reform legislation, in The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) of 1975. The description gives an overview of the program’s creation, and suggests that it could even be a model for national reform. Senator Feinstein has even attempted federal reform in the past, and suggests that current reform efforts should include similar models.

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