WABE News
3:26 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

GA Lawmaker Reignites Debate Over Tort Reform

Aiming to lower health insurance premiums, a Georgia lawmaker is resurrecting efforts to reform the state’s medical malpractice process.

State Senator Brandon Beach (R -Alpharetta) has introduced a bill to replace the current trial-by-jury system in malpractice cases. Instead, there’d be a panel of state appointees to decide the merits of a case.

Beach says the current system forces doctors into "defensive medicine," or ordering procedures solely to avoid lawsuits.

“We spend a lot of money on tests that are unwarranted,” said Beach. “If we took those costs out and let doctors know they had another way of looking at malpractice, they may not perform these unwanted or unneeded procedures.”

Beach says fewer tests will translate into lower health insurance costs for consumers.

Critics have come out in force, saying the legislation would strip Georgians of their constitutional right to a jury trial.

In 2010, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled a previous tort reform measure unconstitutional. The measure capped malpractice awards for patients at $350,000. Trial lawyers led efforts to overturn the cap, arguing it robbed patients of fair compensation and protected mistake-prone doctors.