The Kaiser Daily Health Report gave us an update today on med-mal developments in three states.
In West Virginia, the number of med-mal lawsuits increased by 34 percent over a three year period. It looks like a warning sign that something is unravelling since the Mountain State capped non-economic damages and imposed stricter rules of evidence in 2001. Nevertheless, a spokesman for the state medical society was not ready to panic, stating that WV is now “one of the better states in the country” for med-mal insurance. I hope he’s not too sanguine: WV ranks 36 of the 50 states in the U.S. Index of Health Ownership, (a.k.a IHOP) 2nd edition, so there is plenty of room for more reform. If the last three years’ experience really is a trend, this is no time for the medical society to be complacent.
Even more disturbing news comes from New York and Wisconsin. In WI (#39 on medical tort in IHOP), a judge has blocked the transfer of $200 million from the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund to plug the state’s deficit. In NY (#46 in IHOP), Gov. Paterson has signed a one-year moratorium on med-mal insurance rates, which were likely to go up by one third.
Too bad price controls are no substitute for real med-mal reform – and neither are these compensation funds.. Although they shift the pain from doctors (so the state medical societies quiet down), they merely shift the pain to taxpayers, as the Wisconsin situation illustrates. We’ve seen it before in New York, and Maryland.