Bad for users of health care, better for doctors and hospitals is the bottom line. So says research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
#1 Caps of noneconomic damages did not translate into lower health insurance premiums for consumers. Various types of analyses did not alter this finding.
#2 A survey of empirical research does suggest tort reform has constrained the growth of malpractice premiums for providers.
Lowered the growth of insurance premiums which goes directly to the bottom line of health care providers but is a very small component of health care costs.
#3 It is less clear whether doctors change the way they practice medicine after tort reform, although there is evidence of some cost reductions in cardiac and obstetric care.
So if they aren't worried about being sued they perform fewer tests. Not a big health care component.
Some varieties of tort reform could be part of health reform in the few states that this has not occurred. In the states that have had Republican driven tort reform with very low human life costs and noneconomic damages caps it is citizens being screwed and people dying and family being unable to sue the doctors who can go on and do it again. No benefits to health care users but a bit wealthier doctors.
From the abstract of the study:
Principal Findings. Using a variety of empirical specifications, there was no statistically significant evidence that noneconomic damage caps exerted any meaningful influence on the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance.Again - wealthier doctors, more profitable insurance companies with bigger executive bonuses, no benefits to health care users.
Conclusions. The findings suggest that tort reforms have not translated into insurance savings.
Minor edit from 8/15/09 posting.