A new nationwide poll reveals that a strong majority of America's voters want Congress to include lawsuit reform in any overhaul of the health care system. The survey found that:

-- 83 percent of the nation's electorate want Congress to address reform of the medical malpractice system as part of any health care reform plan.

-- 72 percent of voters think the fear of being sued often changes the way doctors deal with patients.

-- 67 percent of voters favor special health courts deciding medical malpractice cases rather than the regular court system.

And in a stunning indictment of the American legal system:

-- Only 43 percent of Americans have confidence that a lawsuit "without merit" that was filed against them would be resolved in their favor, and only 30 percent have confidence it would be resolved quickly and efficiently.

The poll was conducted by Clarus Research Group for Common Good, a nonpartisan legal reform coalition, and the Committee for Economic Development. It was conducted via live telephone interviews August 14-18, 2009, with a sample of 1,003 registered voters and a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

"The American people want the system of medical justice to change," said Philip K. Howard, Chairman of Common Good. "They are saying it in very large numbers, and they want it to change as part of health care reform. The American people want quicker, more efficient and more reliable justice - in medicine and in the legal system more broadly."

The poll results are consistent with what elected officials are hearing from voters. According to U.S. Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), "As I traveled my state in August, one of the most frequent comments I got was that we need to do something about medical liability. That is how people feel all across the country. Addressing our flawed medical liability system is critical to bringing down costs and improving patient safety."

"One of the greatest challenges of health care reform is to bend the curve of the ever- rising cost of health care," said U.S. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (ID-CT). "The Health Courts initiative should be considered as a creative option to help control health care costs while also offering a new and innovative approach to reforming our medical malpractice system."

"What's striking in this poll are the very large percentages by which the American people support the creation of health courts," said former presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bill Bradley. "As the health care reform effort moves forward, those numbers should provide a basis for bipartisan collaboration in Congress - universal coverage for Democrats and malpractice reform for Republicans."

In the survey, 83 percent of the respondents said they agreed with the statement, "As part of any health care reform plan, Congress needs to change the medical malpractice system so that cases are resolved quicker, and more reliably, on behalf of those who are in the right." A majority of voters, 52 percent, said they "strongly" agreed with the statement and an additional 31 percent said they "somewhat" agreed with it. Seven percent said they "somewhat" disagreed with the statement and 4 percent said they "strongly" disagreed with it. Six percent said they weren't sure. In the poll, 85% of both Democrats and Republicans, as well as 82% of Independents, expressed agreement with the statement.

"In today's polarized political environment, finding big bipartisan majorities on the same side of any issue is difficult, but we've found them here," said Charles E. M. Kolb, President of the Committee for Economic Development. "Congress would do well to listen."

The survey found that 67 percent of voters favor special health courts deciding medical malpractice cases rather than the regular court system. The survey presented this question to respondents:

"Here are two opposing points of view about how best to handle medical malpractice cases when a doctor or hospital is accused of causing harm to a patient. Some people say that these cases should go to the regular court system, as they do now, where they are decided by juries just like other accident cases. Other people say these cases should go to special health courts - similar to special bankruptcy and tax courts - where, they say, cases will be decided more quickly, and at less cost, using consistent standards. Which viewpoint comes closest to your own?"

Sixty-seven percent of voters said they preferred special health courts, 26 percent said the current court system, 4 percent volunteered another answer, and 4 percent said they weren't sure.

Source: Common Good