PCI: Connecticut Needs to Make Common Sense Reforms to Medical Liability System

October 5, 2004

Connecticut urgently needs to make common-sense reforms to its medical liability system in order to preserve patients’ legal rights while protecting affordable patient care and enhancing the stability of the state’s medical liability insurance market, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

The PCI believes meaningful medical liability reform must include limitations on noneconomic damages, according to Rita Nowak, assistant vice president of commercial lines for PCI. A reasonable restraint of $250,000 on non-economic damages reportedly makes the insurance risk more manageable; stabilizes the insurance market and provides for affordable coverage; assures that health care providers will buy coverage; and assures that a pool of money is available through the insurance mechanism to compensate injured patients fully for their economic losses.

In testimony Tuesday before Sen. Joseph Crisco and members of the Insurance Committee, Nowak provided comments on the anti-trust exemption, captives, and comments pertaining to litigation costs and medical liability insurance.

“PCI acknowledges that a captive approach may be beneficial to a select group of health care providers in the short run; however, we caution committee members that a captive approach will not resolve the current problems for specialty doctors, including obstetricians,” Nowak noted.

PCI believes a reasonable restraint on non-economic damages in medical liability litigation is the most critical component of meaningful tort reform, according to Nowak. “According to U.S. studies, the one reform consistently shown to reduce malpractice cost indicators is reasonable limitations on non-economic damages,” she said. “Such limits reduce the uncertainty of non-economic damage awards, allowing insurers to more accurately underwrite medical malpractice risks, and may promote settlements by eliminating the incentive to litigate under the theory that a jury may award large pain and suffering damages.”

Nowak pointed to California, which adopted such a system in 1975. Since then, medical liability premiums have increased by 420 percent nationwide compared to 168 percent in California.

Key elements of the California reform legislation include:

· Providing full compensation for all economic damages, including medical bills, lost wages, future earnings, custodial care and rehabilitation;

· Placing a fair and reasonable limit of $250,000 on non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering;

· Establishing a reasonable statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit;

· Allowing for periodic payments of damages rather than lump sum awards; and

· Ensuring that the bulk of any award goes to the plaintiffs, not attorneys

“For nearly three decades, this law has ensured that legitimately injured patients get unfettered access to the courts and receive full compensation for their injuries, while at the same time providing stability to the medical liability insurance market to ensure that doctors can remain available to care for their patients,” Nowak said.

In conclusion, Nowak pointed out the importance of the Committee carefully considering all viewpoints on the medical liability reform issue before the Connecticut legislature takes up the issue next session.

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