ON the heels of a 14 per cent hike in medical- malpractice rates, Gov. Spitzer has directed his insurance superintendent to form a task force to "confront the fundamental drivers" of high medical-malpractice costs.
The task force will be headed by Insurance Superintendent Eric R. Dinallo; its members will include state Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines and what an Insurance Department's news release described as "a broad range of representatives from physician and hospital associations, the insurance industry, consumer groups, health plans, trial lawyers and the Legislature."
Assuming task-force members approach their assignment with open eyes and minds, they won't have to look too hard for one obvious "driver" of high medical-malpractice rates. As documented in a recent study by the Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy, the level of medical-malpractice premiums in New York can be linked directly to the state's large malpractice litigation awards.
Based on a statistical analysis of malpractice premiums and lawsuit awards throughout the nation, the study debunked the argument that high malpractice costs are a result of cyclical insurance-industry trends and price-gouging.
Between 1999 and 2001, for example, New York had the nation's second-highest average medical-malpractice premium at $42,916 per doctor, according to data compiled by the report's authors. That was more than three times Vermont's average and twice that of New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
The average medical-malpractice premium in New York during that same period, meanwhile, was more than double the 50-state average of just over $20,000. Even before the latest rate hike, such costs were driving physicians away from New York - especially practitioners in obstetrics and neurology, whose premiums in metropolitan New York can range well into six figures.
The Center for Legal Policy study provided added evidence of New York state's desperate need for medical-malpractice reforms such as a reasonable cap on jury awards for "pain and suffering." As long as such reforms remain bottled up in legislative committees in Albany, New York's malpractice crisis won't end.
Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/seven/07052007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/nys_legal_plague_opedcolumnists_e_j__mcmahon.htm