ALTERNATIVES TO TORT “REFORM” THAT DON’T HURT MED MAL VICTIMS
The State of New Jersey has taken an innovative approach to addressing a longstanding concern of physicians in high-risk practices. According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger , a recently passed bill would require the state’s doctors and lawyers to each contribute toward a state fund that would ease the relatively higher medical malpractice insurance premiums paid by the state’s OB/GYN’s.
New York is about to implement an experiment involving NYC hospitals that aims to cut costs and time from the process of resolving medical malpractice claims. The Times-Albany Union reports that the program calls for immediate admission of errors to victims of malpractice, followed by early, and apparently real offers of settlement from the hospitals’ insurance companies, under the guidance of specially trained judges. ( Here is the Healthcare Association of NY State’s take.) The program is based on the practices of Bronx County Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon, who has utilized similar principles while handling all Bronx cases generated by NYC’s Health and Hospital Corporation’s hospitals. If a malpractice victim feels the offer is unfair or unrealistic, he or she can always opt out, and commence a standard medical malpractice case. The program is being funded by a $2.9 million dollar grand from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, and is part of a nationwide pilot program .
Interestingly, not all shortages of physicians in particular fields can be blamed on high premiums and greater exposure to the threat of lawsuits. There is a shortage of primary care physicians in this country, and according to the LA Times , it stems from the desire of medical school graduates to pursue more lucrative specialty areas.
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