National Survey Shows More Than Half of Adult Americans Support Med-Mal Reform

March 7, 2003

Recent results of a Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive┬« Health-Care Poll showed that more than half (58 percent) of adults in America favor new legislation to limit the costs of medical liability and reduce the costs of medical malpractice insurance. Only 16 percent of the public would oppose such a limitation, while a full 25 percent of those surveyed said they “don’t know.”

Some key findings of the poll, which measured the public’s opinion about medical malpractice reform, are:

* Only 16 percent of those surveyed said they would oppose new legislation to
limit the costs of medical liability and reduce the costs of medical
malpractice insurance, while three times that number (58 percent) would favor
it. A full 25 percent said they “don’t know.”

* Two-thirds (66 percent) of adults think that malpractice claims are brought
against doctors when there has been no malpractice “very often” (26 percent)
or “somewhat often” (40 percent).

* 59 percent feel that malpractice suits against doctors and their fear of
being sued harms the quality of care to patients.

* Half (48 percent) favor a cap on malpractice liability damages while a
quarter (26 percent) opposes it, and 25 percent said they don’t know.

* 62 percent favor having medical malpractice cases tried in special courts
presided over by medical professionals and other experts to review and
decide injury cases while only 17 percent oppose, and 21 percent don’t know.

Among the 75 percent who have an opinion regarding malpractice reform, better than a 3-to-1 majority favor reform. Almost a 2-to-1 majority favor a $250,000 cap on awards for non-economic damages (including pain and suffering, and punitive damages) related to medical malpractice claims.

The survey data seems to indicate that older people favor reform-75 percent of those aged 55 years and over favor reform, compared with only 46 percent of those aged 18-24 years. Almost twice as many women (33 percent) as men (17 percent) said they “don’t know” if they favor or oppose new legislation to limit the costs of medical liability and reduce the costs of medical malpractice insurance. Also, twice as many African Americans (34 percent) said they oppose legislation compared to Hispanics (17 percent) and whites (15 percent). Interestingly, African Americans, overall, were split on this question.

To access a downloadable pdf of this Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Health-Care Poll, go to: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/news/newsletters_wsj.asp.

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