Assuring Patients Can Receive Timely Quality Care

New York physicians continue to pay liability premiums that far exceed those in any other state. After liability premiums for New York physicians shot up 55-80% between 2003 to 2008 before the Legislature intervened to impose rate freezes in 2008 and 2009, medical liability premiums have continued to steadily rise. Many New York physicians continue to pay outrageous liability premiums that far exceed $100,000, and some even exceed $300,000! The cost of medical liability coverage for the 2014-15 policy year was:

• $338,252 for a neurosurgeon in Nassau and Suffolk counties;
• $186,639 for an OB/GYN in Bronx and Richmond counties;
• $132,704 for a general surgeon in Kings and Queens counties; and
• $134,902 for an vascular surgeon or cardiac surgeon in Bronx and Richmond counties.

Malpractice payouts in New York State continue to be far out of proportion to the rest of country. For example, in 2013, according to a report by Diederich Healthcare and reported in the March 15, 2014 Washington Post, New York State had by far and away the highest number cumulative medical liability payouts ($689,800,300), nearly two times greater than the state with the next highest amounts, Pennsylvania ($356,855,500), and far exceeding states such as California ($274,590,800) and Florida ($199,442,450). Additionally, New York State had by far and away the highest per-capita medical liability payments in the country, far exceeding the second highest state Pennsylvania by 57%, the third highest state New Jersey by 67%, and the fourth highest state Massachusetts by 74%.

We can no longer sustain such an expensive, inequitable, and fatally flawed medical liability adjudication system if we wish to assure that our healthcare system will be able to accommodate the demand that will inevitably come as our population ages and becomes more resource-dependent, as well as the nearly 1,000,000 newly insured patients who are starting to receive coverage through New York’s new health insurance Exchange. We need comprehensive reform of our flawed civil justice system and reduction in our medical liability costs, not legislation that increases costs and exacerbates existing problems.

We support legislation to create alternative systems for resolving medical liability cases, such as medical court or a Neurologically Impaired Infants No-Fault fund. We also strongly support legislation to enact medical liability tort reforms enacted in other states which would: place reasonable limits on non-economic damages; identify and assure qualified expert witnesses; eliminate joint and several liability; identify a physician supplying a Certificate of Merit; immunize statements of apology or regret; and provide immunity for physicians providing pro bono care.

Preventing Untenable Expansions of Liability MSSNY will continue to strenuously oppose any measure to expand the damages recoverable in medical liability actions, including legislation that would: • Create a “date of discovery” rule for New York’s statute of limitations for medical liability actions – Estimated to increase premiums by 15%;

• Expand “wrongful death” damages to permit “pain and suffering” – Estimated to increase premiums by 53%;
• Permit the awarding of pre-judgment interest – Estimated to increase premiums by 27%;
• Eliminate the current statutory limitations on attorney contingency fees in medical liability cases – Estimated to
increase premiums by over 10%;
• Prohibit ex-parte interview by defense counsel of the plaintiff’s treating physician;
• Change loss-share rules regarding non-settling defendants.
Enactment of any of these measures would have calamitous consequences on our health care system. Efforts to reform our medical liability adjudication system must be comprehensive!