Hawley Blasts Insurance Department Inaction On Medical Malpractice Reforms
July 3, 2008
Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C-Batavia) blasted State Insurance Department Superintendent Eric Dinallo’s announcement that he is delaying the setting of new medical malpractice insurance rates. The current rates expired June 30. “This is another example of Albany playing the ‘blame game’ and skirting responsibility, rather than serving the people. Because of the Superintendent’s inaction, New Yorkers across the state can now expect their insurance premiums to go up. For our doctors, this only means another increased cost. With businesses and residents alike fleeing our state’s high cost of living and excessive tax system, it is irresponsible for state leaders to push issues under the bed,” said Hawley. New York State doctors currently are paying some of the most expensive medical malpractice insurance rates in the nation. High medical malpractice insurance rates have forced many physicians to move their practices to more affordable states in order to continue to work. With current doctors leaving the state and new doctors choosing not to practice here, many areas across the state are facing a shortage of doctors, especially for specialists who pay even more for their medical malpractice insurance. Additionally, the increased cost of medical malpractice insurance is passed onto consumers, which is why many consumer advocacy groups have opposed any proposed rate hikes. These proposed rate hikes, as well as a variety of Tort Reforms, were discussed at a series of task force public hearings held by the Department last year, chaired by Superintendent Dinallo. Without a resolution from the task force, no recommendations were made to the State Legislature. Despite pressure from the public and independent groups, no action was taken by the Legislature. In fact, Hawley is a sponsor of legislation that would help address tort reform and protect consumers and doctors from erroneous medical malpractice reporting. Assembly Bill 3139 would enact the Medical Liability Reform Act to help ensure physicians have a voice in malpractice litigation and A.8066 helps promote ethical and honest “expert” testimony given in court by physicians. Also, to specifically address the concerns of New York State doctors, Assembly Bill 3504 addresses birth-related malpractice concerns and A.4401 puts in a place a cap on non-economic damages (i.e. pain and suffering) at $500,000. “New York State has an obligation to the people who live and work here. Instead of protecting patients and giving doctors the tools they need, Albany politicians, whether they are elected or appointed, are clearly on the wrong agenda. To learn that the task force broke down seven months after the fact and to learn in two curt sentences that the Department is effectively on strike is shameful and juvenile. What’s more upsetting is that in the meantime, the hardworking people of our state are forced to foot the bill and our doctors are forced to continue practicing ‘defensive medicine,’ making the cost of healthcare in New York continue to escalate,” stated the Assemblyman.