Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Tort Reform update

Is there a Malpractice Crisis? Then doesn't that mean too many doctors are making mistakes? If medical malpractice causes bad doctors to go out of business, maybe that’s a good thing. If there’s a medical malpractice insurance problem, let’s call it that. Insurance companies have taken losses in the last few years due to natural disasters and stock market woes. As a result, shareholder profits are not there like they once were.
NYU School of Law professor Jennifer Arlen, who published a piece on medical malpractice liabilities in the NYU Law Review in December, cites a Harvard Medical Practices study that "examined 30,195 written records in the New York state hospital system, and found that about 4 percent of hospitalized patients were injured by the care they received, with one-quarter of these injuries resulting from medical negligence." The report also stated that "one-quarter of the victims of negligence died."
Will caps on Damages lower Malpractice rates? The evidence says no! Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and many legislators say caps alone won't solve the problem
The available data seem to support Kreidler and his allies, at least if the goal is to keep the cost of malpractice insurance down. A survey of malpractice insurers nationwide shows that rate increases vary widely by state and caps don't ensure lower rates. A review of malpractice rate increases last year by Medical Liability Monitor, an independent reporting service that tracks medical professional liability trends and issues, shows that states without caps on noneconomic damages had the lowest -- and highest -- rate increases.
Some consumer groups such as the Connecticut Patients' Rights Group oppose caps.