As part of his effort to obtain a balanced budget by April 1, Gov. Cuomo has selected a "Medicaid Redesign Team", whose purported function is to "reduce Medicaid spending." While this goal might have some merit, the problem is that the team he put together is comprised solely and wholly of hospital CEO's, administrators, doctors and insurance representatives. Not one single patient representative on that team to provide some level of objectivity. Naturally, the "team" included in it's proposal something that doctors have been pushing for many years. A blatant attack on patient safety in the form of a arbitrary $250,000 cap on all medical malpractice awards in the State of New York. Imagine a relative or friend has been left paralyzed, blind, brain damaged, disfigured, or dead through the negligence or carelessness of their doctor or hospital. If this cap is instituted, these grievously injured people would be limited to a total award of $250,000, regardless of the doctor or hospital's gross neglect, carelessness or recklessness.
For many years now, doctors and hospitals have been making the argument that their medical malpractice premiums are excessive, and that they are forced to practice defensive medicine to avoid lawsuits. However, this specious claim has been refuted time and again by studies and statistics. For example, as reported in the February 2011 edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, by instituting a comprehensive patient safety program in 2002, New York Presbyterian Hospital was able to reduce "sentinel events" (defined as avoidable deaths and serious injuries) from 5 in 2000 to none in 2008 and 2009. Further, medical malpractice payouts shrank from a high of $50,940,309 in 2003 to an amazing low of only $250,000 in 2009!
In another example proving that the issue is not costs but rather patient safety, a June 2005 report in the Wall Street Journal found that anesthesiologists substantially reduced their malpractice premiums (paying less in 2005 than they did 20 years earlier) by initiating the use of devices that alerted doctors to potentially fatal operating room problems. Further, they instituted procedures that protected patients from potentially fatal carbon monoxide poisoning, The results of these measures are impressive indeed--patient deaths dropped from 1 in every 5,000 cases to 1 death per 200,000-300,000 cases.
Statistically speaking, despite the complaints of doctors and hospitals about medical malpractice lawsuits, they are in fact steadily decreasing in New York State. The New York State Office Of Court Administration (OCA) reports that malpractice filings in 2009 were 3,961, from 2005 when 4,270 such cases were filed.
Normally, this blog focuses on interesting cases, changes in the law and advice to plaintiffs on how to have a successful personal injury case. However, the grossly unfair and arbitrary effort to shift the responsibility of doctor and hospital errors away from those who should ultimately be held responsible--the doctors and hospitals that cause these injuries and deaths--must be stopped in its tracks before it is too late. Please urge your local legislator to vote no to the arbitrary and unfair malpractice caps, and yes to patient safety in allowing grievously injured patients to receive just compensation for their injuries.