On the July 21 edition of Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity falsely claimed that "malpractice insurance alone for doctors," as a result of "trial lawyers' suits, has driven up the cost of healthcare astronomically"; yet he cited no evidence beyond stating "I have all people in medicine in my family. I know the costs."
Richard Goodstein, attorney and former Gore campaign adviser, appeared on the program to discuss Senator John Edwards's (D-NC) former career as a trial lawyer. In response to attacks by Republican opponents that trial lawyers like Edwards are partially responsible for rising healthcare costs in the United States because malpractice lawsuits are causing medical liability insurance for doctors to increase, Goodstein cited a Congressional Budget Office report concluding that bills capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits at $250,000 "would basically save only 0.4 percent of the amount that's spent now."
In response, Hannity dismissed Goodstein's argument as "silly" and proceeded to cite his family to support his own erroneous claim.
From the July 21 edition of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes:
GOODSTEIN: The Congressional Budget Office said that these bills that would cap non-economic damages at $250,000, if enacted, would increase by -- would basically save only 0.4 percent of the amount that's spent now.
We're really not talking about anything that has a macro, a major influence on the cost of health care.
HANNITY: Do you know how silly your statement is when you say there's no major impact on the cost?
Just the cost of malpractice insurance alone for doctors in the last 25 years in this country, because of trial lawyers' suits, has driven up the cost of healthcare astronomically.
Go look at -- just talk to the average doctor. I have all people in medicine in my family. I know the costs.
The Congressional Budget Office report cited by Goodstein documents the minimal impact of malpractice suits on overall healthcare costs. Although the report recognized that a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages would reduce doctors' malpractice premiums by 25 percent to 30 percent, it also noted that malpractice premiums make up such a small percentage of the cost of providing healthcare that reductions would not have a significant overall impact on healthcare premiums for the general public.
According to the report, "[M]alpractice costs amounted to an estimated $24 billion in 2002, but that figure represents less than 2 percent of overall health care spending. Thus, even a reduction of 25 percent to 30 percent in malpractice costs would lower health care costs by only about 0.4 percent to 0.5 percent, and the likely effect on health insurance premiums would be comparably small."