Republicans have long sought to reform the tort system, insisting that the high cost of medical care is due in large part to excessive jury verdicts in medical malpractice cases, and to health providers who feel they have to prescribe whole regimens of unnecessary or redundant tests out of fear of being sued.
Democrats have opposed attempts at reform and have succeeded for the most part, although most states now limit non-economic recovery in medical malpractice actions. Typically, a litigant who prevails in such cases is limited to about $500,000, regardless of the degree of egregious conduct on the part of the health care provider. Non-economic loss includes pain and suffering.
It should also be noted that trial lawyers who represent plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases support Democratic candidates in overwhelming numbers.
In Florida, Republican lawmakers have seized the moment to impose their own brand of tort reform in medical malpractice cases by proposing to limit the non-economic damages that Medicaid recipients can recover to $300,000. For every other malpractice plaintiff, the limit is $500,000.
The legislators justify their proposed measure by arguing that Medicaid patients receive state funds or benefits for their medical care and presumably should not be taking advantage of the system any further.
Medicaid patients are often the poor and disabled who cannot afford private health care. Like other plaintiffs in personal injury cases, they must negotiate with health care insurers who are usually entitled to some degree of reimbursement for the medical costs they spent out of the proceeds of any settlement or money verdict. This also applies to Medicaid recipients.
Further, Medicaid patients who are awarded monetary compensation in a personal injury action are no longer eligible for Medicaid benefits, and would have to reapply once their injury compensation runs out.