Michael Townes Watson
Medical Malpractice Liability Task Force Members Announced
Finally someone is taking the right course to address the high cost of malpractice insurance. The news from New York’s State Department of Insurance announced the appointment of the new members of the Medical Malpractice Liability Task Force, charged by Governor Eliot Spitzer with identifying the fundamental causes of high medical malpractice costs and proposing solutions.
Perhaps this task force will be a model for sensible inquiry into the best relief, sorely needed by many doctors and other healthcare providers, from exorbitant and outrageous rates charged by the malpractice insurance carriers. For the past five years the insurance lobbyists have had their way with public opinion and the state legislatures, getting caps on malpractice damages passed in over half of the states. (See www.StopMedicalError.com). On several occasions, those same lobbyists have pilfered their way into the hearts of a majority of the U. S. House of Representatives, which has several times passed bills that would have capped malpractice damages for those most seriously harmed by medical error.
For some reason, the insurance company lobbyists have been able to convince the public that it will be in the consumers’ best interest to limit the liability of negligent doctors and hospitals. Those consumers are now beginning to catch on, as they are seeing that healthcare has not become more affordable, contrary to the promises made to the state legislatures. In most instances, malpractice insurance rates have not gone down in those states where damages caps went into effect. In those states where modest decreases were given to the doctors, those savings were not passed on to the patients.
We can only hope that Governor Spitzers’s task force, consisting of organizations representing the consumers, the business community, doctors and other health professionals, hospitals, health plans, medical malpractice insurers and lawyers, will look at ways to provide sufficient compensation for malpractice victims whose lives are devastated by medical error. The task force will help define the major causes of medical malpractice and of the high cost of insurance. It will also be asked to help collect data that can be used to clearly identify the major cost drivers and to evaluate benefits of proposed solutions. The task force will work to achieve agreement on short-term and long-term reforms. Insurance Superintendent Eric R. Dinallo stated, “A good malpractice system should encourage accessible, quality medical care; promote increased patient safety; treat victims of malpractice fairly; set reasonable insurance costs for health providers; and, by promoting healthy, competitive insurance suppliers, insure that victims will be paid and health providers protected. The current system fails on every one of those goals.”
Let’s keep our eye on the workings of the task force. For those of you in the state of New York, communicate with your lawmakers and let them know you support efforts to understand the true cause of high malpractice premiums—the vast increase in medical error. Don’t fall asleep and let the legislature pass draconian malpractice damage caps, leaving the most seriously injured victims with no effective remedy.
Michael Townes Watson, author of America’s Tunnel Vision—How Insurance Companies’ Propaganda Is Corrupting Medicine and Law. www.AmericasTunnelVision.com.