Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski has signed into law a bill to limit non-economic damage awards made against health care providers.
The bill is intended to curb skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance rates that place Alaska at a competitive disadvantage with other states and help attract and retain a qualified pool of physicians in the state.
“Alaska has a shortage of doctors and a lack of choices for those doctors who need to maintain responsible malpractice insurance coverage,” Murkowski said. “This bill begins the process of giving Alaskans an improved health care system.”
Senate Bill 67, sponsored by Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, caps court awards for non-economic damages. A court may award up to $400,000 in non-economic damages for a case involving wrongful death or severe permanent physical impairment that is more than 70 percent disabling. In all other cases where a non-economic award is granted, the cap is limited to $250,000 for a single injury.
Alaska ranks near the bottom among states in per capita number of practicing physicians and about half are over the age of 50. Alaska currently has only two liability insurance carriers that offer coverage for doctors and other carriers find the state to be an uneconomic place to do business.
The limit on non-economic damages does not apply to intentional misconduct or a reckless act or omission.
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