State Senator Fred Girod proposes tort reform
By Taxpayer Association of Oregon,
Lawmaker profile Series
During the February Special Legislative Session, Senator Fred Girod (R-Stayton) is proposing a bill that will send a referral to the voters that would cap non-economic damages at $1 million through a constitutional amendment. Non-economic damages are amounts that cannot be quantified, such as pain and suffering. This legislative concept would not affect the amount awarded for economic damages.
While Senator Girod expects opposition from trial lawyers and a chilly response from the Democrat-led Senate, he feels it is important to pursue this on behalf of Oregonians. Senator Fred Girod believes that tort reform is essential if we want to provide better access to health care. With the cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums skyrocketing, it will provide some relief for our doctors and patients alike. In Texas, aggressively reforming tort law has significantly lowered the cost of malpractice insurance and healthcare costs. For example, since tort reform was implemented, the largest malpractice insurance company has reduced their rates by 35%. Tort reform has saved doctors $217 million in four years, resulting in savings for patients. The reform has also encouraged an influx of doctors to the state, and many are heading for rural and under-served parts of Texas.
Without tort reform, Senator Girod believes that Oregonians will continue to pay increased costs for healthcare premiums, doctors are practicing “defensive medicine” or even worse, qualified doctors are leaving the state or retiring early. In the end, consumers are paying for the large settlements with an increased cost of health care.
This is challenging for specialized doctors like Obstetricians, who can expect to pay anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 per year for medical malpractice insurance. As a result, some Obstetricians who are finding it harder to cover the cost of insurance are are refusing to provide pregnancy and childbirth care.
Oregon has an opportunity to learn from the success in Texas and establish a system that protects doctors and controls the cost of insurance for doctors and their patients.