The Hartford Business Journal reports that Connecticut hospitals have successfully decreased their medical malpractice costs without stripping citizens of their right to collect the damages to which they are entitled. The report indicates that the solution is actually quite obvious: commit less malpractice. This approach allows those who suffer from personal injury or wrongful death to collect damages, while still decreasing insurance premium costs.
The decreases are not small. Despite medical costs continuing to skyrocket, medical malpractice insurance costs in Connecticut’s acute care hospitals dropped 5.6% between 2011 and 2011, and dropped a full 16.1 percent since fiscal 2009.
Connecticut Considered Damage Caps
Back in 2005 there was a push to cap the damages allowed in medical malpractice suits, a drastic measure that would have both stripped patients of their right to have damages determined by a jury of their peers, and prevented severely injured litigants from collecting enough damages compensate for their losses. The state legislature opted not to take these drastic and unwarranted steps, and instead took the more moderate action of passing measures aimed at tightening malpractice oversight. This meant the bulk of the work of decreasing premiums had to be done by the industry itself, not by a legislative band-aid.
Decreasing Acts of Malpractice is a Better Solution
After losing the battle over caps, medical professionals had to look for other solutions to the problem of their insurance costs. The solutions the Connecticut Hospital Association came up with are effective and comport with common sense. Their program, which most Connecticut hospitals are participating in, involves strategies like encouraging better communication between staff and following checklists in operating rooms and emergency departments to make sure important safety procedures are not skipped. They key of the program is improving communications between medical professionals and between medical professionals and patients.
The result: fewer acts of medical malpractice are happening, so fewer people are being injured by malpractice and having to resort to suing to be made whole. When malpractice is less common, malpractice insurance premiums are less expensive. It is no different than car insurance-the insurers have figured out that sixteen year olds get in more accidents than thirty year olds, so all other things being equal, they charge the thirty year old less. Doctors and hospitals who commit less malpractice and who adopt procedures to prevent it get cheaper insurance than those who don’t.
Despite Better Solution, State Like Florida Still Pushing for Damage Caps
Florida had damage caps, but the State’s Supreme court recently struck them down because they violated the state constitution. Now, however, news station WTXL reports that a task force is now pushing for a constitutional amendment to allow the caps. This is a huge mistake. Changing a constitution is usually a drastic step reserved for serious problems to which there is no other solution, like ending slavery or expanding the right to vote. Connecticut has shown a less drastic solution exists-there is no reason states like Florida should not give it a try.