Floridians for Quality Affordable Healthcare released a report concluding that $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases would have saved 25 percent of nearly $1.2 billion in malpractice settlements and awards paid in Florida in just three years.
According to the political action committee, the 29-page analysis of state records reveals that unless lawmakers limit non-economic awards, referred to as pain and suffering, patients risk losing access to high-risk medical procedures and the physicians who are willing to perform them. The cost of malpractice is eating up to one-third of some physicians’ net revenues, leading scores of doctors to close their practices, retire early or stop offering high-risk procedures. Physicians are packing up and leaving Florida and states with similar legal environments such as Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Jersey and West Virginia; New York and Illinois are not far behind.
“The issue comes down to the rights of a few plaintiffs to collect unlimited damages for pain and suffering versus the rights of 16 million Floridians to continue to receive quality, affordable healthcare,” stated David E. Berman, principal investigator on the report and senior vice president of Business Development at iBX Group Inc., a publicly traded company that specializes in financial, administrative and technology services for the healthcare industry. “If we want to maintain access to these common medical procedures in the event that we or our loved ones ever need them, we need to limit the amount of non-economic damages individual plaintiffs can collect.”
Among the report’s findings:
· For physicians, the odds of being sued are not based on performance but are highly correlated with certain high-risk specialties, including neurosurgery, vascular surgery, thoracic surgery, general surgery, radiology, obstetrics and emergency medicine.
· Total non-economic damage awards in Florida have increased 153 percent in just 11 years.
· Analysis shows a highly skewed number of newborn plaintiffs, highlighting the tendency to blame anything wrong with a newborn on the delivery process, in spite of scientific research to the contrary.
· A small number of high-cost cases consume a disproportionate share of both non-economic damage payments and total payments.
· Malpractice insurance is much more expensive in Florida than in most other parts of the United States, putting Floridians at higher risk of losing access to quality healthcare.
Florida lawmakers are tentatively planning a special session in June to tackle the malpractice issue.
“The diminishing access to quality healthcare is reaching catastrophic levels in Florida and other states,” said Evan R. Brovenick, iBX’s CEO and president. “While iBX has taken steps to help physicians avoid potentially disastrous lawsuits through compliance and medical records management, our top-level executives are seeking more permanent solutions to help doctors and patients in the future.”
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