If patients could buy “negative outcome” insurance, the number of malpractice suits would decline dramatically, and the high cost of medical services would come down. That’s the theory behind a bill introduced into the Oklahoma legislature by Republican Rep. Jason W. Murphey based on a failed Congressional proposal by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).
Sometimes “things can go wrong without the slightest negligence by the doctor involved,” says Paul, who was a practicing obstetrician for almost 40 years. “Of course some malpractice suits are legitimate, and truly negligent doctors should pay economic damages. But far too many suits are filed simply because a patient is unhappy…and far too [many] meritless suits are settled simply to avoid litigation costs.”
Last year, Paul introduced a bill in Congress that would have given consumers a dollar-for-dollar tax credit to buy “negative outcome” insurance before undergoing surgery or other serious treatment. The insurance would have guaranteed a payout without any litigation. In cases of actual malpractice, the insurance company could still sue the doctor.
The tax credit was designed to encourage demand for the insurance, which in turn, would encourage insurers to write policies. Paul’s bill died in committee, and he has not decided whether he’ll revive the proposal. “Now that the Democrats are the majority party, we have to be sure we’ve lined up some Democratic support before we try to re-introduce it,” said Jeff Deist, a spokesman for Paul.
Murphey’s version of the legislation calls for a tax deduction for the “negative outcome” premium, instead of a tax credit. “I was impressed by the innovative nature of the concept,” he says. “This legislation would be a significant step in reducing incentive for those promoting ‘jackpot justice.’”