Another Voice: Bill to increase wrongful death damages would be devastating for doctors and patients in New York | Opinion
Not so long ago, doctors and other healthcare workers in New York were hailed as heroes for their efforts in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. They risked their lives for their patients. They risked the lives of their loved ones by providing them with this care.
Many doctors fell ill and some died. Countless physicians continue to bear the emotional scars of these overwhelming circumstances.
However, cheers are long forgotten.
Now, doctors in New York are facing another potential disaster, due to a well-meaning – but extremely harmful – bill recently passed by the New York State Legislature.
Recent legislation would exponentially increase the damages that can be awarded under New York’s wrongful death law. An actuarial study concluded that the increased damages and new lawsuits this bill would trigger would increase liability insurance costs for New York doctors and hospitals by nearly 40%.
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Liability costs are already an overwhelming component of the operating costs of your local hospital and medical practice. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to manage if your mortgage or rent increased by 40%?
Even if the liability cost increases necessitated by this bill amount to half of what was anticipated, such cost increases are unsustainable.
If Governor Hochul does not veto this bill, patient access and continuity of care could be threatened statewide as physicians relocate to other states with more patient-friendly environments. doctors or retire early to avoid the huge new costs that this bill would impose.
New York doctors already pay some of the highest liability premiums in the country. Many are already paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for coverage. Those who provide the most critical emergency care essential to our safety net — including neurosurgeons, heart surgeons, and OB-GYNs — often face costs of $100-200,000 a year to provide that care. .
Even before COVID, New York has long received the dubious designation as one of the worst states in the country for providing care, according to wallethub.com. In addition to New York’s excessive regulations, it has by far the highest liability costs and insurance premiums in the country.
For example, a Diederich Healthcare report showed that in 2019, New York again had the highest cumulative medical liability payments of any state in the country, 68% more than the state with the second highest amount. higher, Pennsylvania.
It’s not just because of the size of New York. He also had the highest per inhabitant statewide liability payout, surpassing the second-highest state of Massachusetts by nearly 10 percent.
Some in favor of this legislation have argued that New York’s existing wrongful death recovery law is an outlier compared to laws in other states. However, what is not mentioned is that many of these other states – more than 30 – have also adopted comprehensive provisions to contain excessive medical liability insurance costsincluding damage limits.
It is certainly appropriate to assess and determine the most responsible way to fill the gaps in New York’s liability laws. But it must be done in a responsible way that controls the explosive increase in costs that these new lawsuits would inevitably cause. This legislation threatens the most important issue that the Erie County Medical Society seeks to address, as we have faced chronic issues with access to care in Western New York.
The Governor must veto this legislation and bring together various parties to discuss a more effective alternative that will not worsen the current health issues facing our region.
Robert Armstrong, MD, FACS, is president of the Erie County Medical Society.