Smith: Tort reform not just for doctors

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 1, 2002

HATTIESBURG &045;&045; Doctors seeking malpractice insurance aren’t the only ones who could benefit from civil justice reform, Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith told legislators Wednesday.

Smith was one of several speakers at a meeting of a joint legislative tort reform committee held at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Smith made it clear that he supports the medical community’s call for tort reform 100 percent.

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But he also said the average citizen will suffer if such reform is not enacted.

For one thing, a lack of reform causes insurance premiums to increase for both individuals and businesses.

Next, Smith cited a Forbes magazine article and U.S. Chamber of Commerce press conference that expressed alarm over large lawsuit awards in Mississippi.

Such perceptions hurt efforts to recruit businesses and to keep young people from moving away, Smith said.

Communities throughout the state, including Natchez, spend millions each year to educate the students that move away and to attract new businesses.

&uot;Is it illogical to continue to spend every year on education and recruitment and at the same time not provide the absolute best business climate we can?&uot; Smith said.

Losing businesses depletes the tax base, which could force governments to raise taxes or fees to compensate.

Smith cited the example of Natchez Regional Medical Center, which financed by issuing bonds.

If more doctors leave and new ones are not recruited, &uot;the hospital will not and cannot generate the revenue required to service the debt,&uot; he said. &uot;Taxes or fees would have to be raised to cover the shortfall.&uot;

In addition Smith said, as he did in an April letter to Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, that reducing medical costs, including drug costs, would reduce Medicaid costs.

&uot;I truly believe that the quality of life for the vast majority of our citizens is being jeopardized,&uot; Smith said.