AAI Views House-Passed W.V. Med-Mal Reform as Positive First Step; Urges Senate to do Likewise

January 21, 2003

Reforms aimed at improving West Virginia’s beleaguered medical malpractice market passed late last week by the House of Representatives is a step in the right direction and should be passed as quickly as possible by the state Senate, according to the Alliance of American Insurers.

“Although HB 2122 fails to cap attorneys’ fees, it would be, on the whole a definite improvement over the current system,” Neil Malady, Alliance Mid-Atlantic regional manager, said. “The key will be getting it passed in a state that is heavily influenced by the trial bar.”

House Bill 2122 includes:

·a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages, increasing for inflation each year;

·an end to joint liability for defendants in a liability case;

·periodic payments of damages for awards in excess of $100,000;

·limitations on liability for trauma and emergency care facility services;

·tax credits for physician’s medical liability insurance premium payments; and

·a limitation for bankruptcies caused by medical liability awards for physicians permitting them to keep their homes.

Sarah White, Alliance policy manager with responsibility for medical malpractice issues, added that the bill is “somewhat unique compared to other medical malpractice reforms we’ve seen in other states because it is so comprehensive. These are the long-term reforms the Alliance has been pushing for, not just the short-term quick fixes often offered. If enacted, this proposal would provide immediate relief for doctors struggling with higher premiums and provide long-term solutions to keep premiums at an adequate and reasonable level in the future.”

“HB 2122 is a good starting point from which West Virginia can begin to travel the long road toward restoring stability to its medical malpractice market,” Malady said. “The Alliance urges the state Senate to act to pass this bill on to Gov. Bob Wise (D) as quickly as possible.”

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