Viewpoint: Time for ‘Loser Pays' in medical lawsuits?

Everyone agrees that the cost of everything in America is way too high, and climbing. One of the most rancorous debates in the nation's history is at the heart of this matter as it relates to medical costs. But can what happens in the courtroom affect what happens in the operating room? It sure can. One government estimate says that the cost of lawsuits came to over $800 for every American, and that was in 2006. When people sue each other, the meter starts running for both sides, and the result many times is that cost rises, because the lawyers have to get their fee, regardless of the outcome. The person doing the suing, win or lose, frequently pays no price, beyond what his lawyer charges. But the party defending can be saddled with huge expenses. Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia recently introduced their 'Loser Pays' legislation as an amendment to the health care bill. The amendment would decrease the number of frivolous lawsuits that increase the cost of medical care for all Americans. Canada, England, Germany, France, and Australia, all have a "loser pays" system. Florida had one for several years. The Graham-Chambliss 'Loser Pays' amendment would create a system of preliminary, non-binding arbitration for medical malpractice claims before they get to court. If one or both of the parties involved rejects the arbitrator's decision, they can take the claim to court, but then they'd play by the 'Loser Pays' rule. As doctors find themselves working longer and charging more just to cover their medical malpractice insurance, maybe it's time for 'Loser Pay.'