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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Malpractice caps aiding insurance companies

Malpractice caps aiding insurance companies

Viewpoint by Isaiah Smith/reporter

30707Texas lawmakers promised doctors lower insurance rates in 2003 when reforms in House Bill 4 placed a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in malpractice cases.

However, despite lawmakers’ swearing that rising insurance costs were the problem with Texas health care and that a cap would fix it, insurance premiums for doctors continue to rise.

“ We are removing the incentive personal injury trial lawyers currently have to file frivolous lawsuits and run doctors out of business,” Gov. Rick Perry said in a press release on www.governor.state.tx.us.

GE Medical Protective, the nation’s largest malpractice carrier, filed for a rate increase in 2004, less than one year after Texas lawmakers enacted the cap.

“ GE Medical Protective admitted when it filed for a rate increase that caps on non-economic damages reduce costs by the smallest of margins (1 percent) and do not affect the amount of premiums charged,” Randi McGinn, an attorney from New Mexico, said in an article on CNN.com.

New Mexico ranks among the bottom five states when it comes to hospital safety, McGinn said.

One reason for the low rank is for the last 30 years New Mexico has had a cap on damages in medical malpractice cases.

“ Instead of being held responsible for amputating the wrong limb, giving the wrong, death-dealing medication or leaving patients languishing in the halls because of inadequate staffing, hospitals and health care providers under the New Mexico Medical Malpractice Act only have to pay the first $200,000 of the damage they cause,” she said in the article.

Surely New Mexico thought 30 years ago that the Medical Malpractice Act was a great idea, and look where it got them.

Here in Texas, we have had only four years to watch the fallout, and already major insurance firms have backed off their end of the deal.

Jury verdicts are not the problem.

According to a citizen.org article that analyzed data from the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank, the median payment grew, when adjusted for inflation, from $125,000 in 1991 to $146,100 in 2004, an average annual increase of only 1.2 percent.

Insurance companies are huge, faceless corporations that are going to charge whatever premium they want.

All capping accomplishes is that on the rare occasion when someone really deserves a huge settlement, the insurance company has already won.

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