SOURCE: Albany Times Union

New York lawmakers and their appointees to the Health Care Simplification Workgroup missed a key opportunity to resuscitate the Empire State’s ailing medical liability environment. The report delivered to the state Legislature that recommends strategies for reducing health care costs should have also tackled comprehensive medical liability reform.

Why? New York leads the nation in medical liability payouts — both in total and per capita — more than the total payouts for the entire Midwest. These payouts increase premiums for healthcare professionals, costs that are passed on to the consumer.

Medical professionals’ fear of being sued leads to resource-wasting “defensive medicine.” Johns Hopkins University reports the practice is widespread. According to one researcher, “unnecessary medical care is a leading driver of the higher health insurance premiums affecting every American.” Some 85 percent of the physicians polled said the anxiety of getting hit with a lawsuit is the top reason they order extra tests and expensive overtreatment.

To fix this, policymakers should pass common-sense reforms. A pending bill would reduce New York’s interest rate on monetary judgments, which is currently fixed at a whopping 9 percent. Reducing this rate would curb coercive settlements and remove a barrier to appeals. New York’s standards for expert evidence could use a full overhaul. Predatory lawsuit lenders should be regulated, too. These firms made headlines recently for fueling fraudulent slip-and-fall rings and providing high-interest loans for unnecessary surgeries to inflate settlements.

New York is called the lawsuit capital of the world, but it doesn’t need to be that way.