December 18 2009, 11:32 AM
In recent years, Democrats have resisted the idea of tort reform as a way to lower the costs of health care. The idea has gone nowhere. Now, it has taken a new shape, thanks to U.S. Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat who wants to spend $10 million of the massive health-care-reform bill to study ways to speed up medical malpractice lawsuits in order to reap significant savings. His amendment to the bill should save doctors on their malpractice insurance premiums, as well as money for consumers who sue their physicians, he tells the Colorado Springs Gazette. "It is in no way an effort to increase anybody's profit margin," Udall says. "The goal here is to save money for litigants." The proposal has a rich background, emanating from work by the University of Denver's Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System. Institute director and former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Kourlis says the amendment could reduce the cost of a malpractice case between $150,000-$500,000 without capping awards. Neither Udall nor his counterpart, Democratic U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, support reform that will increase the federal deficit or health-care spending, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. The Durango Herald editorial board praises Udall's measure: "This would seem to be an attempt to find a way through that thicket of partisanship and calcified positions. It is not the tort reform Republicans want---but were not about to get in any case---nor is it the legal status quo with which the Democrats seemed to be satisfied."