To the Editor:

Two and a half years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, medical professionals in New York are faced with the possibility of another crisis — this time not from any disease, but from legislation under consideration in Albany that threatens doctors and hospitals with new, potentially catastrophic, liabilities.

A well-meaning, but seriously misguided bill passed earlier this year by the state Legislature would radically expand the types of damages recoverable under the state’s wrongful death statute. If signed into law, doctors and hospitals will see a dramatic increase in the cost of insurance, an amount estimated at a whopping 40%.

Doctors and hospitals are already among the top targets for lawsuits and must grapple with sky-high insurance costs as a result. Many physicians pay tens of thousands of dollars per year in insurance premiums, and some of our most specialized and rewarding fields like OBGYNs and neurosurgeons can pay upwards of $200,000 each year.

The environment for physicians is especially dire in New York when compared to the rest of the country. This year, the Empire State was named the second-worst state in the country for doctors by WalletHub. The report also found that New York has the highest medical liability payout amount per capita, and second highest annual medical professional insurance costs.

Supporters of the legislation in question contend that the bill must be signed to bring New York’s wrongful death statute in line with other states. But more than 30 states have laws which limit award amounts, which help suppress outrageous insurance premiums. Unfortunately, the bill under consideration does not include any economic guardrails to keep payouts and costs in check.

Paying more for liability coverage means higher operating costs for private practices, and is likely to force some local facilities to limit care or even close their doors for good. A 40%t increase in insurance premiums is far more than what many doctors’ offices can afford and will result in some pediatricians, radiologists, and general practitioners leaving their practices and moving to states with a less hostile liability environment.

New Yorkers living outside of cities and suburbs rely on an extremely limited number of options for healthcare. The loss of even one practice can prove devastating to a rural community by further limiting access, forcing patients to travel even longer distances to access treatment and preventative care and leading to significantly worsened health outcomes in rural areas.

New York’s doctors and hospitals already face some of the most expensive operating costs in the nation. Onondaga County can’t afford to watch hospitals and medical practices shut down because they can’t afford a sudden, drastic hike in insurance. Before enacting any new and expansive liability statutes, lawmakers need to look at the whole civil justice system and install safeguards to protect medical professionals from catastrophic costs.

Every cent spent on insurance is a cent that can’t be spent on patient care. To protect access to care and avoid imposing any new burdens on our already distressed healthcare systems, Gov. Kathy Hochul should veto this bill.


Dr. Robert Dracker, President

Dr. Digant Nanavati, President-elect
Dr. Lynn Cleary, Vice President

Dr. David T. Page, Past President

Dr. Michael Sheehan, Treasurer

Onondaga County Medical Society Officers 2022-2023