State's tort reform hasn't cut health costs

In some circles, tort reform is considered a holy grail that can singlehandedly rein in the nation's spiraling healthcare costs. In the absence of national legislation for comprehensive tort reform, efforts are under way in several states to implement changes in medical liability laws. However, those efforts might not reap the expected monetary savings. Five years after enacting tort reform in Ohio, the state's healthcare costs haven't diminished, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

In 2004, Ohio lawmakers passed legislation that put a $250,000 cap on jury verdicts for pain and suffering, limited punitive damages and created higher standards for potential plaintiffs to meet before they could take a case to trial. However, health insurance for Ohio families in employer-based health plans spiked 19 percent from 2004 to 2008. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation puts the average 2004 premium at $9,590, compared to $11,425 in 2008.

During that same time period, premiums rose nationally by almost 22 percent. The fact that Ohio's premium cost increases came under the national average can't be directly linked to the state's tort reform because too many other factors impact health spending, say policy analysts. Ohio's growth rate exceeded that of neighboring Kentucky, which didn't institute malpractice verdict caps, notes the trial lawyer trade group, the American Association for Justice.

However, malpractice insurance premiums for Ohio physicians have decreased by an average of 22 percent since 2006, according to the Ohio Department of Insurance. Tort reform also reduced the number and size of malpractice cases in the Ohio legal system. From 2005 to 2008, the number of claims filed against doctors and hospitals dropped by 39 percent.

To learn more about Ohio tort reform:
- read the Cleveland Plain Dealer article