Questions for the Candidate: Would you vote for medical liability reform? Would you vote to cap non-economic damages as part of comprehensive medical liability reform?
The rising cost of professional liability has driven many ACOG members out of obstetrics, out of their preferred practice area, or out of practice. Medical liability reform is about patient access to health care.
Did you know: In 2003, Texas passed a $250,000 cap on non-economic damage awards against physicians which dramatically reduced premiums and increased the number of medical providers in the state.
Medical Liability - Federal
Nationwide, nearly 75% of Ob/Gyns are sued by the age of 45, 99% of Ob/Gyns will be sued by the end of their careers, and each Ob/Gyn is sued on average 2.5 times. The average age when an Ob/Gyn stops practicing obstetrics is 48 years old. This doesn’t reflect malpractice; it reflects the uncertainty of delivering a perfect baby even with the very best care.
To see more on the magnitude of Medical Liability on Ob/Gyn practice, read ACOG’s National Survey on Professional Liability.
ACOG is focused on our gold standard of medical liability reform, including caps on noneconomic damages. Until we reach that goal, we’re pursuing meaningful alternatives that will improve the liability scenario for our members and patients. Click here for a list of alternatives or continue reading below.
Currently, good physicians practicing good medicine can be taken to court for bad outcomes, absent any malpractice. Safe Harbors create panels of qualified medical professionals to make a preliminary determination as to whether the physician adhered to professional guidelines, eliminating meritless claims and allowing other cases to go to court without implication of liability. Read more here.
Ob/Gyns often get called to deliver patients they’ve never seen before and who may have received little or no prenatal care. Physicians in these circumstances are very vulnerable to increased liability for less than perfect outcomes. Safety Net laws grant ob-gyns federal liability protections for providing care under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA.) Learn more here.
Medical Liability - State
Texas’ Cap on Non-Economic Damages
In 2003, Texas passed comprehensive medical liability reform including a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages for physicians and $750,000 for hospitals. As a result, Texas saw a dramatic reduction in premiums and an increase in physicians in proportion to the population, especially in high risk specialties and in rural areas.
Learn more at www.tmlt.org or www.tapa.info.
California’s MICRA Legislation
Studies show that caps on non-economic damages are most effective in reducing liability premiums and retaining a stable physician workforce.
California’s 1975 law, the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), placed a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages, allowing unlimited economic costs, including medical costs and lost wages. Over the years, MICRA has provided fair and equitable compensation for those negligently injured, and stabilized the insurance marketplace and access to quality care.
According to a study by Richard Anderson published in the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law and Ethics, “it is reliably estimated by entities as diverse as the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Milliman and Robertson, the Florida Governor’s Select Task Force on Healthcare Professional Liability Insurance, and the American Academy of Actuaries that passage of reforms similar to MICRA in states currently lacking such statutes would result in premium savings of 25 to 30 percent annually.”
Check with your state’s medical society for more information.
Florida and Virginia Birth Injury Funds
Florida and Virginia have infant injury compensation funds that work outside of the states’ tort systems. As the Florida Birth-Related Neurological Compensation Association (NICA) states, “By eliminating costly legal proceedings, and through professional management of its disbursement, NICA ensures that birth-injured infants receive the care they need while reducing the financial burden on medical providers and families.” Families with an injured infant do not have to wait for a long legal process or prove negligence in order to obtain the financial help they need. Physicians and hospitals support the programs financially while receiving a compensatory decrease in their insurance premiums. To read a more in depth analysis of these systems, click here. You can also read more about Florida’s program or Virginia’s.