Association: Tort reforms effective

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A new study of enacted tort reform measures shows that award limits do reduce insurers' payouts and, ultimately, insurance premiums, researchers say. Consumer and legal groups disputed the findings.

The American Medical Association reviewed about 10 "independent" studies that examined how caps on pain and suffering awards and medical liability risk affected insurance premiums, physician supply and defensive medicine costs.

The summary showed that the caps in notable reform areas such as Texas and California, reduced costs for insurers and physicians, according to an article dated next Monday found on the AMA Web site Tuesday. The physicians association's analysis also concluded that reforms can relieve doctor shortages.

"This tells the story again: Tort reform works, and this just reaffirms it for the umpteenth time," said AMA Immediate Past President William G. Plested III, MD. The AMA supports a cap of $250,000 at the federal level, as well as state reforms.

Among the analysis' findings: Internists' premiums in states with caps were 17% less than in states without caps; The number of physicians practicing in high-risk specialties is 4% to 7% higher in states with caps; a 60% increase in medical liability premiums between 2000 and 2003 was linked to a $7.1 billion increase in spending on physician Medicare services.

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