Letter to the Editor

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 10:05pm

As promised, Gov. Bill Haslam has set out to improve Tennessee’s health care and business climate. The Tennessee Medical Association is in full support of his tort reform proposal, which includes fair upper limits on non-economic (“pain and suffering”) damages in health care liability as well as personal injury cases.

Legislative reforms in 2008 helped to improve Tennessee’s medical liability climate but we still rank high in the nation for the amount of damages paid in medical malpractice cases. Access to care remains a big concern, especially in our rural communities, and too many physicians are still practicing “defensive medicine” just in case they are sued. There is still work to be done. 

The governor’s tort reform bill (SB1522/HB2008) will address these medical issues as well as make strides to improve our overall business climate, create jobs and get our economy moving again.

Limits on medical malpractice lawsuits will reduce physicians’ tendencies to order those extra tests, which are needed more to answer courtroom questions than to improve patient outcomes. Fewer unnecessary tests and procedures will mean lower costs, which will in turn lead to lower insurance premiums for enrollees.

The less medical practices have to pay out in attorneys’ fees and liability insurance rates, the greater the investment they can make in resources to improve patient care, such as electronic health records, keeping and expanding patient care staff and purchasing newer diagnostic equipment — all of which mean better care for Tennesseans.

A better business climate also means we can keep the medical doctors we have and attract more to Tennessee. That equates to more jobs. Physicians are business people; we pay rent and taxes, lease equipment and hire workers. Likewise, a community with good healthcare services is more attractive to new employers, resulting in even more jobs and revenue.

Let your state senator and representative know that you support Gov. Haslam’s tort reform bill because it will lead to a healthier economy and healthier Tennesseans.

B.W. Ruffner, Jr., MD

President, Tennessee Medical Association

Nashville,  37212



35 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 3/23/11 at 3:59

Physicians may have once been business people, but not any longer. They leave that
portion to the large number of other organizations that are now involved in
health care from staffing, to billing, to purchasing of equipment, and finally even
more firms that handle federal rules, insurance issues and reimbursements.
The physicians have elected to let all the business matters be handled by others
freeing he/she to be a $500-$800.00 per hour private contractor. "We're from
the Health care industry and we're here to fleece you"! It's no wonder this
industry's cost are skyrocketing with inflated cost.

By: serr8d on 3/23/11 at 5:58

Finally, sensible tort reform is coming to Tennessee. But we've always been sensible, for the most part (cough)*Tennessee Waltz*(cough)...

govskeptic, medical doctors should spend most of their time practicing their profession, and paying other people to do mundane paperwork (that's why accountants make better business managers than they do heart surgeons). I've no problem with doctors doing what they do best to the point of exclusivity.

Lawyers, now, are parasites for the most part. The best lawyer (whoever that might be; he or she is NOT in Tennessee) is worth 1/100 of the value a mediocre medical doctor. And that might be on the high side.

Here's where the worst of the lawyers practice...


That, courtesy of the American Tort Reform Association http://www.atra.org/

By: yogiman on 3/23/11 at 6:38


Good doctors in the medical profession are like all other fields of work. You might have an expert, a good 'un, a mediocre or one that's are in the wrong line of work, and you won't know which one you got until you git' 'um.

I agree with govskeptic, too many people are simply going to a doctor's office looking for a law suit and the doctor's office is going to take care of that for them.

By: dargent7 on 3/23/11 at 7:52

serr8 is correct. See all the Lawyer's commercials blastin' the air waves lately?
About 4-6 show a poor soul who got hit by a semi or drunk driver and was crippled for life.
The lawyer comes in and sues for a million...the victim is soon dancing at their next wedding.
" I got $550,000...." Land sharks.

By: Loner on 3/23/11 at 9:14

This is a well-written letter and it's tough to find fault with the basic premises. The question is, if enacted, would doctors and health care facilities pass the projected savings on to the consumer, or would they "stash the cash"?

Would the insurance companies actually lower their rates to reflect the savings, or would they find reasons to keep most of the cash flow flowing?

Human nature is such that, in a fee for service situation, in a capitalistic economy, some health-care providers will rationalize keeping most of the savings....for good reasons, of course.

If the bill becomes law, it's a safe bet that consumers would have their savings skimmed.

We should remember that Doctor Ruffner, the LTE author, is a professional zealot who lobbies for the interests of his union of physicians. I'd like to see a rebuttal from the lawyer's union.

Serr8d supports TMA, the doctor's union, but he has condemned the teacher's unions. Apparently he is not anti-union by nature...he just picks and chooses as to which unions are worthy of his support. We are not far apart on that point. Some unions are essential, others are a scam.

By: brrrrk on 3/23/11 at 10:19

This is what I don't get about tort reform.... the "right" yells that we need it in order to reduce the cost of health care (although I've seen no evidence of it doing so in any other state), but yet in a "free market", what are consumers options when it comes to defending their rights against dangerous doctors? Shouldn't a consumer who has been egregiously harmed by a physician have the ability to financially harm that physician to the point of driving them out of business; if not for themselves, but to protect others as well? Isn't that the way the "free market" is supposed to work?

It seems to me that tort reform is nothing but a big wet kiss to the insurance companies and does nothing to protect the rights of those that are legitimately harmed by physicians. With tort reform in place, bad physicians will pay their settlement (or more accurately the insurance company will pay the settlement) and continue on their merry way practicing bad medicine. The big winners in tort reform will be the insurance companies (would will pay smaller settlements) and bad doctors (who should be forced out of business); the losers will be good doctors (who will have to live with the actions of bad doctors who skate) and the consumer.

By: brrrrk on 3/23/11 at 10:32

Oh, and one more thing to consider.... the majority of cases brought against physicians (85%) are either settled out of court or are outright dismissed as having no grounds whatsoever. We're only talking about a small percentage of cases here.

By: Antisocialite on 3/23/11 at 10:39

brrrrk, I must say that yours is a brilliant rebuttal. How someone can believe that it is fine for someone crippled by injury to then be crippled by financial burden because 'the free market dictates the cost of medical care;' while simultaneously holding the position damages to their health sustained at the doctor's hand need to be legislated by the government is utterly beyond me.

Once again, the hypocrisy of the so-called conservatives is laid bare.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/23/11 at 11:18

Antisocialite would you expect any other remarks to come from the far right? There are posting the patient talking points, they hear from Limbaugh or Fox News.

Care to make a wager that these brave conservatives would not be the first in line at the attorney’s office, if they were injured.

By: brrrrk on 3/23/11 at 11:38

One other thing. I would bet my bottom dollar that of those 15% of cases that do make it to court, the majority are cases where the evidence of medical malfeasance is so overwhelming that the court has no option but to force a trial, or the physician being sued has been to the settlement well so often the that insurance company has dropped them and/or has refused to settle just to get them "off the books". In either case, wouldn't we all feel better if these guys weren't in the phone book when looking for a physician.

By: yogiman on 3/23/11 at 11:48

It seems interesting factors of laws are being brought up over the nation recently.

I just read where a Florida state judge has determined that Islamic law, or Shariah, will be used in the dispute in a mosque.

It looks like some day we will simply be the adjoining states; not united.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/23/11 at 12:47

Show us the evidence.

By: brrrrk on 3/23/11 at 12:53

Captain Nemo said

"Show us the evidence."

From what I can see, the right-wing paranoid red-meat sites are the only ones talking about this..... no surprise there.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/23/11 at 1:11

That is probably so brrrrk or Old yogi got is meds mixed up again. ;-)

By: yogiman on 3/23/11 at 1:45


If you would, or could, simply read something other than the NCP you might, just might, learn what is going on in this world today. But, then again, I understand you don't have enough up there in your thick skull to understand that.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/23/11 at 1:58

You still don’t have a clue as to how to make insults do you yogi. Dumba is only insulting to you and no one else.

By: budlight on 3/23/11 at 2:26

And I see the insulters are still raving on! Why is it so hard to be nice to each other? Hmmmmm!

By: Captain Nemo on 3/23/11 at 2:41


You were nice to me the other day and it was returned.

By: yogiman on 3/23/11 at 2:52

I'm not trying to make insults, dumba.., I'm simply making proven statements. And you seem to be misreading your true name. You don't seen to be able to see the last two letters I politely leave off. This is in the public's view, dumb ass, and I'm not referring to a jackass.

By: brrrrk on 3/23/11 at 3:30

"Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise:
and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."

By: yogiman on 3/23/11 at 3:52

Well, brrrrk, it doesn't look like I fit that category in your philosophy. As I have stated before, throw a stone at me and I will throw a rock back at you. and it could get to be a boulder.

And by the way, you didn't post whom you was quoting as proof it wasn't you saying it.

By: brrrrk on 3/23/11 at 4:17

Better read your Bible yogi.... that's Proverbs 17:28

By: yogiman on 3/23/11 at 4:22

So, why didn't you mention you was quoting the Bible?

By: brrrrk on 3/23/11 at 4:26

yogiman said

"So, why didn't you mention you was quoting the Bible?"

So, why didn't you know?.... I would have thought a good Christian like yourself would have caught that. :-)

By: yogiman on 3/23/11 at 5:23

By the status on this site, as I am posted, often, I understand you are supposed to prove your post. I'm constantly being belittled on the issue. Apparently, you can't assume the others understand what you are posting as being a fact.

By: yogiman on 3/23/11 at 5:27

Please allow me to add to that comment. This issue seems to be from a 'select few' who seem to think NCP is on the internet for them personally. All others should go by their desires.

By: Gary Lampman on 3/23/11 at 6:26

Doctors want a free ride so they can multiply Profit without as much as a down side. Bill Haslem should realized that Medical Errors and Hospital Acquired Infections are Preventable . However, no one seems to give a damn that Medical Errors are Preventible but Doctors are still making these Errors without any new protocols . They are still on the rise and people are suffering from these stupid,preventable mistakes. HAI's are also preventable and your doctors still ignore them .
Bill Haslem can not fix medical Malpractice by setting Protections for Doctors, Without addressing the fact that Medical Errors and Hospital Acquired Infections are rising and people dying from what is Preventable! HAIs account for 90,000 deaths each Year ,according to the CDC and about the same number for medical Error each year. Mr Haslem ,Address this first and then we can talk about the other Protectionist ideals for Doctors. Why would you permit a 007 Doctor with a License to kill and escape accountability for Preventable Harm?

By: yogiman on 3/24/11 at 6:37

I must disagree with the governor on the malpractice suit issue. Too many are in the medical practice for the money, and may of them are simply inefficient to do their practice.

It isn't like taking your car to a shop for repair. If the mechanic doesn't fix it, you don't have to pay them. If the medical 'mechanic' can't fix it, they still expect you to pay them for walking into their office. And how many doctors have you ever known say; I'm sorry, I can't fix that for you, or I can't help you with that?

Justifiable lawsuits should not be void. I'm afraid if it is, there will be many other bad practitioners in the medical filed.

By: treehugger7 on 3/24/11 at 6:42

Gary, I agree woth you, but the capitalization of words that should not be capitalized tends to undercut your argument.

By: treehugger7 on 3/24/11 at 6:43

SHB "with you".

By: yogiman on 3/24/11 at 8:12

Okay, children. Errors are made by everyone and everyone has their own way of "putting" their words across. Can't you bear with them?

By: Captain Nemo on 3/24/11 at 11:30

Shut up yogi

By: yogiman on 3/24/11 at 11:41

Need I repeat myself on the issue, dumba..?

By: Captain Nemo on 3/24/11 at 1:44

Here you go again yogi, dumba is not an insult. Can't you ever learn anything?

By: yogiman on 3/24/11 at 3:32

May I reiterate, dumba..? I am not referring to dumba when I post your name as dumba.., I am simply trying to be polite to the ladies on this site when I say dumb ass in referring to you, which you have proven time and again I'm right. Do I need to offer further proof than yours?