Some Alaska doctors and politicians such as U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski contend tort reform — mainly capping damages allowed from medical malpractice suits — is a must to bring down health care costs. Others, including Sen. Mark Begich, have said that tort reform is a minor factor in health care costs.
In Alaska, we've already got tort reform. A new law in 2005 capped non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, at $250,000, unless the malpractice involves death or a 70 percent disability. Then the cap is $400,000.
Since 2005, medical malpractice insurance premiums have trended downward, says Andy Firth of Medical Insurance Exchange of California, the biggest malpractice insurer in the Alaska market.
But in Alaska, so far, tort reform has not helped drop health care costs for consumers.
A state Department of Labor report last month showed health care costs in Anchorage are on a steady upward trajectory — they quadrupled between 1982 and 2009.
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