October 2014 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now

Volume 9, Issue 10

October 2014 Newsletter




Special points of interest:

New Study Validates Importance of Limits on Non-Economic Damages

HCLA Radio Ads Mobilize Support for Pro-Liability Reform Candidate

Liability Rates Peak and Plateau

New Study Validates Importance of Limits on Non-Economic Damages

A recent study published in Health Affairs validates what pro-liability reform supporters have been pushing policymakers to enact for decades — reasonable limits on non-economic damages — which result in lower costs for patients across the country.

The authors of the study, titled “Medical Malpractice Reform: Noneconomic Damages Caps Reduced Payments 15 Percent, With Varied Effects By Specialty,” analyzed a sample of liability claims from 1985 through 2010 in parallel with information on state liability reforms, to estimate the impact of state limits on non-economic damages on average liability payments.

The results compared how the liability payments differed as the limits increased from $250,000 to $500,000.

“We found that, overall, noneconomic damage caps reduced average payments by $42,980 (15 percent), compared to having no cap at all,” stated study authors Seth A. Seabury, Eric Helland and Anupam B. Jena. “A $250,000 cap reduced average payments by $59,331 (20 percent), and a $500,000 cap had no significant effect, compared to no cap at all.”

The study also touched on a real-time medical liability issue – the California ballot initiative to raise limits on non-economic damages in excess of $1 million.

“…Our findings suggest that [passage of Proposition 46] would lead to about a 20 percent increase in average indemnity payments, with larger increases in obstetrics and gynecology and in pediatrics.”

Enacting reasonable limits on non-economic damages, both at the state and federal levels, ensure that personal injury lawyers are prevented from abusing the medical liability system with meritless lawsuits, deserving patients are efficiently compensated, and health care services are both affordable and accessible to all patients.

To read the Health Affairs study in full, click here.

HCLA Radio Ads Mobilize Support for Pro-Liability Reform Candidate

The Health Coalition on Liability and Access earlier this month began running targeted radio ads in support of Joni Ernst, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Iowa and key supporter of making meaningful and comprehensive changes to medical liability laws in order to ensure patient access to quality medical care.

The ads, running statewide through November 3, emphasize Joni’s understanding of the personal relationship between doctors and their patients, and how medical lawsuit abuse and inaction in Washington is pushing access to care even further away from patients residing in rural areas.

“Joni understands the importance of strengthening our rural health care providers—so the care you need is always there,” the ad states. “And Ernst supports reforming our broken medical liability system that drives up costs for patients, forces good doctors to leave medicine—and makes trial lawyers rich.”

Ernst’s opponent, Congressman Bruce Braley, who is also a trial lawyer, has voted against commonsense reforms that would keep health care affordable for Iowa patients and allow doctors to continue to practice throughout the state.

Joni Ernst is a mother, as well as a member of the Iowa State Senate and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. To listen to the radio ad supporting Joni Ernst in its entirety, click here.

Liability Rates Peak and Plateau

While medical liability insurance rates as a whole remained unchanged over the past year, it is clear from the Medical Liability Monitor Annual Rate Survey that this plateau follows years of stark increases and leaves physicians and patients concerned about access to affordable care in the future.

Of the rates quoted in the survey, 65 percent did not change from 2013. For the remainder, rate decreases outnumbered rate increases.

When taking into account rates in California, where MICRA first set the medical liability reform standard in 1975, and New York, which has so far failed to pass liability reforms and has seen an exodus of physicians, the differences are stark.

Standard liability insurance rates for Long Island obstetrician/gynecologists top $210,000, but the rates in central California, where a physician can find the lowest standard rate in the country, are a fraction of that. A medical liability provider in the state, operated by the Cooperative of American Physicians, quotes $16,240 for obstetrician/gynecologists for a region of counties that includes San Francisco.

States with the lowest rates all had a common denominator – reasonable limits on non-economic damages. For internists in California, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas, comprehensive coverage was available for less than $5,000 per year.

Lower liability costs for physicians translate into more affordable and accessible care for patients. To read more about this year’s Medical Liability Monitor rate survey, click here.