Category Archives: New York

June 2017 Newsletter

  Patient access to care scores a win in Washington The passage of comprehensive medical liability reform legislation this week in Washington gives patients and physicians a win on access to affordable care. H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, passed the House by a vote of 218 to 210, and enacts reasonable limits on non-economic damages while modeling the common-sense reforms of states like Texas and California. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the comprehensive medical liability reforms included in H.R. 1215 would lead to cost savings of $44 billion over the 2017-2026 period for federal health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and reduce the national deficit by almost $50 billion over the same 10-year period. The Protect Patients Now grassroots network was activated over the past month and was instrumental in gathering support for the bill. Nearly 650 emails were sent to members of Congress, with many others taking to Facebook and Twitter to advocate for support of medical liability reform. “Our broken medical liability system is one step closer to more efficiently and equitably compensating deserving patients and reducing the medical lawsuit abuse that undermines the physician-patient relationship,” said HCLA Chair Mike…

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Trial lawyers push bill for heftier fees in malpractice cases

Trial lawyers are trying to slip in a fast one in the waning days of the legislative session in Albany that would fatten their legal fees in medical malpractice cases. Lawyers can earn 30 percent of the first $250,000 recovered in medical malpractice recoveries, dropping to 20 percent of the next $500,000, 15 percent of the following $250,000 and 10 percent of any amount over $1.25 million. A bill introduced on Sunday by Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn) would allow much heftier fees. The 30 percent cut would be applied to the first $1 million recovered, 25 percent of the next $250,000 and 20 percent of any amount over $1.25 million in cases decided by the end of 2019. The contingency fees then get bumped up even higher — 30 percent of the first $1.25 million and 25 percent of any amount over that — in cases decided before Dec. 31, 2020. And after Dec. 31, 2020, lawyers could collect the contingency fee percentage allowed in all other litigation — 33 percent of recoveries. “This is a gift to the trial lawyers. The bill would directly take money from injured…

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May 2017 Newsletter

  Liability reform cited as major savings in President’s budget With an emphasis on deficit reduction, the President’s 2018 budget highlighted how medical liability reform can lead to improved fiscal health. Cited as resulting in major savings and reform, medical liability reform is noted in the President’s budget as necessary due to the fact that “the current medical liability system does not work for patients or providers, nor does it provide quality, evidence-based care,” budget language states. The liability reform proposal in the budget contains proven state reforms that have lowered costs and increased access to care in states such as California, Texas, West Virginia, and Ohio. This allows for deficit reductions of $55 billion over 10 years upon passage of a bill that contains reasonable limits on non-economic damages of $250,000 (increasing with inflation), a three-year statute of limitations, and modifications on attorney’s fees to ensure deserving patients – not personal injury lawyers – benefit from liability judgments and settlements. To review the medical liability reform proposal contained within the President’s budget, click here. Panel discussion yields insights into future of liability reform Taking part in a legal panel on the future of medical liability reform, HCLA chair Mike…

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Pre-existing Condition: New York’s Broken Liability System

The ‘Worst State for Doctors’ Has a Dangerous Pre-existing Condition Another year, and another report naming New York the “Worst State for Doctors.” Time and time again, our state ranks dead last as a place for physicians to practice. The primary reason for the Empire State’s strained relationship with the medical profession is the staggering cost of medical liability insurance. New York has the highest per capita medical liability payouts in the country. These payouts are 35 times higher, per capita, than they are in the lowest state. Nearly 20 percent of all the medical liability payouts in the U.S. are paid in New York, more than all of the medical liability payouts for the entire Midwest. These costs drive doctors out of our state and weaken New Yorkers’ access to care. Since 2003, 16 hospitals in New York City have closed. To keep their doors open, some of the state’s remaining hospitals have opted to “go naked,” and not carry any medical liability insurance at all. While it is tempting to blame the insurers for this cost crisis, many medical liability insurers are operating at a loss. The real culprit for New York’s runaway medical insurance costs is New…

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Legal reform would benefit business in New York

E.J. McMahon’s recent column in the Poughkeepsie Journal champions reform of New York’s Scaffold Law, possibly the most litigation-friendly statute in the nation (“N.Y. leaders have means to improve business climate,” May 16). His attention to the law highlights how New York’s dysfunctional civil justice system creates an enormous economic burden for the state’s small businesses, medical professionals, municipalities and nonprofits. The Scaffold Law has been pointed to as a hindrance to everything from school construction to Habitat for Humanity’s efforts following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. Legal reforms — like updating the antiquated Scaffold Law — translate to mandate relief for all aspects of our economy. Doctors, patients and public institutions are directly impacted by New York’s litigation friendly medical policies. A recent study showed that, in 2015, New York had the highest per capita medical liability payouts in the nation, a figure higher than the payouts of the entire Midwest. This could be partially remedied by aligning New York’s standards for expert testimony with those used in other states; a simple fix that would prevent “junk science” from entering our courtrooms. Businesses and municipalities are similarly burdened by New York’s lack of “fair share liability.” Under current law,…

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Malpractice premiums flat in 2015, but changes could be ahead

Physicians paid about the same in liability insurance premiums in 2015 as in 2014, and analysts don’t see costs changing anytime soon. A nationwide survey of insurers by the Medical Liability Monitor shows that 71% of insurance premiums did not change this year, while 17% of rates rose and 12% fell. Internists experienced an average premium increase of 0.6% in 2015, while general surgeons saw a 0.2% average rate decrease, and ob.gyns experienced an average 0.5% rate increase. The static premium market is being largely driven by the low number of lawsuits filed by patients and family members in recent years, said survey coauthor Paul Greve Jr., executive vice president/senior consultant for the Willis Health Care Practice, a global risk management consultant firm. “It’s amazing to see the continuing stability in claim frequency,” Mr. Greve said in an interview. “The claims counts are just not rising. Its great for the industry, and it’s great for physicians, but it is puzzling because you wonder what has caused what amounts to a sea change in the attitudes of the general public toward malpractice litigation such that the claim counts were drop off.” Premiums continue to vary geographically. Southern Florida internists for example,…

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A Flawed Medical Malpractice System

New York’s medical malpractice system needs comprehensive reforms. The writers note that many states allow patients to file suit based on when they discover that there was a medical error, but, unlike New York, most of those states also have caps on damages and other laws that balance the effects of wider discovery rules. Pegging New York’s statute of limitations to a patient’s subjective knowledge will potentially lead to far more claims and greater financial exposure for the state’s doctors and hospitals. Despite scoring high on various quality indicators, New York’s hospitals and doctors have among the highest medical malpractice costs in the United States. Many doctors logically conclude that the state is simply too hostile an environment to practice medicine. Finally, the same study that the writers cite to blame hospitals and doctors (“To Err Is Human”) emphasizes that improving patient safety requires a shift away from a culture of blame. Other studies have concluded that the drivers of malpractice liability are varied and not necessarily related to the quality of care. Medical malpractice is a complex issue that deserves thoughtful discourse. Only through comprehensive reform — not narrow, piecemeal legislation — can we achieve appropriate balance and minimize…

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Letter: Medical lawsuit reform must include a better liability cap

Regarding the June 23 Another Voice, “Medical malpractice needs more thoughtful reform,” legislators need to act carefully in addressing laws affecting medical malpractice lawsuits. Legislative reforms must bring legitimate redress where it is needed; however, care must be taken to insure that new legislation does not decrease access to the best care in the world. Regressive measures that increase already exorbitant premium rates may accelerate the departure of New York’s physicians to other states, thus aggravating the existing physician access problems across many regions of the state. Proposals that alter the current law governing the statute of limitations would create one of the longest time periods in the country to bring lawsuits against doctors and hospitals. Most states that delay the running out of their statute of limitation until the discovery of medical negligence balance the cost impact by providing reasonable limitations on awards. New York has no such limitations on medical liability awards. New York State is already universally recognized to have one of the most hostile medical practice climates in the United States, having by far and away the highest total and per capita medical liability payouts in the country. Against this backdrop, legislation to increase lawsuits without…

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Stefanik says Republican health care plan is coming

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik spoke with members of the Medical Society of the State of New York Saturday in Lake Placid about a Republican-led effort to reform the Affordable Care Act. The Mirror Lake Inn’s conference room was filled with around two dozen doctors and health care professionals eager to hear the congresswoman’s perspective and to offer their own input on the current state of health care. Stefanik, 30, a Republican from Willsboro who has been on the job for about three weeks, addressed the room for several minutes about her health care goals, and afterward there was a more extensive question-and-answer period. Stefanik said her goals include having both high-quality and cost-effective treatment, and increasing health care accessibility for rural communities. Because “health care is a complicated issue,” Stefanik said she would make an effort to reach out to hospitals, patients and physicians. “These groups need to be represented,” Stefanik said. Dave Welch, a doctor from Saranac Lake, told Stefanik that making “little repairs to a broken system clearly isn’t working” and said that a whole new approach to health care is needed. “Now that we have a new Congress fully controlled by one party, what kind of new…

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Malpractice Insurance Premiums Nudge Down Again

For the seventh straight year, malpractice insurance premiums have decreased for three bellwether specialties, and even for sticker-shocked obstetrician-gynecologists on Long Island in New York, according to an annual premium survey released this week by Medical Liability Monitor (MLM). Rates quoted by a malpractice carrier called Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers for obstetrician/gynecologists in the New York counties of Nassau and Suffolk, east of Queens, went from $227,899 in 2013 to $214,999 in 2014, a decrease of almost 6%. However, this rate continues to be the highest quoted by any carrier in any state for this specialty. Overall, malpractice premiums decreased on average by 1.5% in 2014 for obstetrician/gynecologists, internists, and general surgeons, which is slightly less than the 1.9% decrease in 2013. By specialty, rates fell 1.6% for internists, 1.3% for general surgeons, and 1.7% for obstetrician/gynecologists. Since 2008, overall rates for the three specialties have fallen by 13%, MLM said. To many physicians, this slow decline represents little comfort because it was preceded by an era of rate spikes: Premiums increased more than 20% in both 2003 and 2004, and about 9% in 2005 (rate increases in 2006 and 2007 were less than 1%). “We haven’t come down as far…

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