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Mar 02, 2003
by Florida Today Editorial Board
Editorial - Medical MalpracticeMEDICAL MALPRACTICE
Don't approve caps. Legislators also must address the cost of malpractice insurance. Rates are soaring in Florida, putting pressure on the financial ability of doctors to continue to practice medicine as they would prefer, or in some cases, to practice in the state at all.
The solution, as the medical associations see it, is to cap jury awards for pain and suffering or non-economic losses at $250,000. The insurance industry -- which has been hit by a sluggish investment market and the costs of mergers and expansion -- also wants the caps.
While caps would lower insurance campanies' payouts, nothing would be done to restrict their ability to boost insurance premiums.
On the other side are lawyers who take malpractice cases to court for a contingency fee.
They're against the caps, especially since caps would deeply restrict awards in cases involving children and those adults who are not working for pay.
That caps are coming up at all is testimony to short memories. Florida tried them in 1986. When rates continued their rise, the caps were removed.
A more recent study by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights showed that several years after caps were put in place in California, insurance premium rates jumped 190 percent between 1976 and 1988.
That's when California got smart and put in place strict rate and insurance company regulation. The result was a 2 percent decrease in rates over 13 years.
That's why, rather than capping awards to patients, legislators should focus attention on demanding reform in the insurance industry.
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