CALA: LAWSUIT ABUSE IS MAKING US SICK
Rally at Trial Lawyers National Conference Highlights National Healthcare Crisis Caused By Litigation
July 22, 2003
SAN FRANCISCO -- Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse groups throughout California united today outside the national convention of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America in San Francisco to protest and raise public awareness about the impact frivolous litigation and unfounded class action lawsuits have had on America's healthcare delivery system.
The protest is part of a national campaign, "Lawsuit Abuse Makes Us Sick," which is designed to educate consumers about how frivolous and excessive healthcare litigation is raising costs for prescription drugs, health coverage and doctor visits, while also jeopardizing access to medical products and treatments.
"We're here today to tell the story of people like Titus Simonini," said Maryann Maloney, executive director of Orange County Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. "Titus has hydrocephalus, and needs a silicon brain shunt to survive. But because of junk science lawsuits against silicon manufacturers, fewer companies are willing to manufacture the shunts that keep him alive. Now, Titus and his mother are very concerned about the future.
Titus' problem is not unique, Maloney adds. According to a study by New York-based Arnoff Associates, each year over 7.5 million lives in America are either saved by or improved through implantable medical devices or products like pacemakers and stents. Yet, due to the threat of liability, 75% of suppliers of biomaterials used to make medical implants banned sales to U.S. manufacturers. Although the Biomaterials Assurance Assistance Act of 2000 aimed to remedy this by providing important legal protections to suppliers in liability lawsuits, numerous medical device producers choose to remain overseas.
"Litigation is also a major threat to our access to care," Maloney says. "It's an accepted fact that litigation raises costs. When litigation forces healthcare costs to rise, the natural result is an increase in the cost of overage. Unfortunately as the cost of coverage rises, so do the number of uninsured."
According to a study published in the Journal of Health Economics, every ten percent increase in the cost of insurance creates a three to four percent decrease in the number of people who choose to purchase coverage.
"You don't have to be an economist to know that when people can't afford coverage, they can't afford care. When they can't get care, they just get sicker," Maloney said. "Already more than 40 million Americans have no health coverage, and that will only get worse if healthcare litigation is not brought under control.
Maloney says that form of control could come from legislative reforms that would remove the "jackpot mentality" from the civil justice system and ensure greater predictability, fairness and balance.
According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, simply limiting "unreasonable" jury awards could cut health care costs by five to nine percent, saving $70 - $126 billion each year and allowing an additional 2.4 - 4.3 million Americans to obtain medical insurance.
"America is facing a health care crisis," Maloney said. "Lawsuit abuse threatens our healthcare system and jeopardizes our ability to access what should be the finest health care in the world. Our legal system is in desperate need of fundamental reform."
CALA is a nonprofit, grassroots organization dedicated to educating consumers on the human and financial costs incurred when the legal system is abused for greed, harassment or publicity. More than 30,000 California consumers are CALA supporters.