The Illinois legislature passed a law strictly limiting the ability of medical malpractice victims to hold hospitals and health care workers accountable for negligence over a year ago. Although limiting what a victim can seek from a negligent health care worker or hospital is clearly unfair, proponents promised that it would lower Illinois doctors’ insurance premiums.
They are now proven wrong. Illinois medical malpractice victims continue to be restricted under the law and the medical malpractice cap has done nothing to decrease premiums for physicians. In fact, insurance industry premiums are rising!
According to Illinois’ largest medical insurer itself, it will pay out 20% less from 2005 claims than 2004 claims despite the fact that its income increased significantly (from $11.5 to $23.6 million).
Since the enactment of this law, here are the winners and loser:
1. Insurance companies: Illinois’ largest medical insurer’s income has greatly increased from $11.5 to $23.6 million.
2. Illinois physicians: Insurance rates have increased.
3. Illinois citizens: Have lost their right to full compensation determined by a jury and their right to hold doctors and hospitals fully accountable for their medical malpractice.
It is clear that insurance companies continue to gain from enactments of malpractice caps. Doctors continue to lose, but victims continue to lose the most
Looking to other states, we can see that Illinois is not the only state seeing that damages caps do not work. Malpractice premiums in states with caps on noneconomic damages are 12.4 percent higher than in states without caps! In fact, in the five states that most recently enacted caps, insurance premiums rose at nearly double the rate as those that did pass damage caps.