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Malpractice Award Cap Won't Trim Budget Costs, Opponents Say

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Consumer advocates and trial attorneys said a state proposal to cap malpractice awards takes away a key protection for patients – and wouldn’t save the state budget any money.

Medicaid – whose multi-billion dollar budget Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to trim -- doesn’t actually pay malpractice claims. But hospitals and doctors for years have said they need "relief" from malpractice suits. They rarely pay the actual damages, but their costly malpractice insurance coverage does, and premiums have steadily increased.

The effects of malpractice caps on insurance premiums has long been in dispute.

Stephen Younger, president of the New York State Bar Association, said capping damage awards doesn't necessarily mean hospitals and doctors will have cheaper malpractice insurance.

"We've looked at the states where this has been put into place, for example in Texas," Younger said. "Texas adopted caps. Have insurance rates gone down? No. They haven’t gone down one cent."

Consumer advocates and attorneys argue that damages lawsuits are among the strongest ways to protect patients and pay for long-term care when something goes very wrong.

Hospitals and doctors say such claims lead to more and more costly "defensive medicine," such as unnecessary tests.

Younger said hospital groups got the limit in malpractice awards as a trade-off for accepting lower payments from Medicaid.

The state's two main hospital trade groups have long said high malpractice awards and insurance coverage are among the top drivers of high treatment cost.

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Comments [2]

Harry from Brooklyn

There are no caps on malpractice today in NY and still attorneys would not take your case.

Mar. 03 2011 06:51 AM
malpractice victim

As a victim of malpractice, I can testify that the costs lie in malpractice; i.e. the five additional orthopedic surgeries, and the years of physical therapy (still not finished) that I had to undergo. Many more patients were unwitting victims of my surgeon's malpractice, and since they did not sue, he was going strong when he operated on me. When I finally got the suit off ground, (after being refused by about ten lawyers--and that is without award caps). He left N.Y.C. and did not renew his license in N.Y.,(hence no records of him). He now left N.H. and, likewise, did not renew his license. A cap on awards will make it unworthwhile for attorneys to invest their time and money in suing doctors; and doctors will have no problem committing malpractice.

Mar. 02 2011 11:23 AM

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