Political battles over malpractice reform have recurred for 35 years, starting at the state level. Many states have enacted caps on awards and other tort reforms amid liability insurance crises proclaimed in the mid-1970s, mid-1980s, and early 2000s. Since the mid-1990s, Republicans have unsuccessfully sought similar malpractice limits at the federal level. Sharp run-ups in claims rates preceded the first two crises; the last seemed more driven by increases in awards and other costs, along with insurance market developments. Defensive medicine arose separately as a national policy issue in the late 1960s. At the time, medical liability was expanding from the very low level of the 1950s because of shifts in both tort doctrines and social culture.
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