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Something that Works

It's rare to find something in government that works; the state Supreme Court has one good example.

At a time when so many public problems go unaddressed, when so much of government seems ineffectual, it's nice to stumble across something government's done that actually seems to work.

The state Supreme Court, for example, just released the latest data on medical malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania that shows action taken years ago continues to produce results.

Such lawsuits, once a staple of big-money payouts -- especially in Philadelphia where courts were clogged with cases and lawyers hit Vegas-level jackpots -- impact health costs and  force doctors to over-test and spend more time in depositions than in patient care.

The problem, a decade ago, was spinning wildly out of control.

That's when the state court did two things: required attorneys to get certificates of merit from medical professionals as proof a legitimate case existed and put an end to "venue shopping" to cut down on cases brought in Philly courts known for high awards.

The result? There is, as of 2011, a 44% decline in med-mal filings statewide since 2002, and a 65% decline in Philly.

In 2002, there were 2,904 filings statewide (almost half in Philly); in 2011, there were 1,528 statewide, 418 in Philly. Here's a county-by-county chart released by the court.

As a veteran cynic and general critic of almost all that government does, I find it's nice to  once in a while see something that actually works.