Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell has revealed a variety of proposals contained in her budget that are designed to help keep medical malpractice insurance affordable and ensure that access to health care is not threatened.
Rell’s proposal includes a prior approval of rate hikes of more than 10 percent and stricter reporting requirements on hospitals to help prevent medical mistakes. It does not include caps on damage awards but raises the possibility of such caps down the road if premioums do not decerase as a result of otehr reforms.
Former Gov. John Rowland vetoed a medical malpractice bill last eyar because it faield to include damage caps.
“The price of insurance should not be the deciding factor in whether or not a physician practices – or is able to practice – in Connecticut,” Governor Rell said. “The state that is home to the ‘insurance capital of the world’ and two of the finest medical schools in the nation should be able to find a resolution that protects the rights of patients who are injured by medical mistakes without unnecessarily driving up health care costs.
“Unfortunately, people suffer real injuries from medical mistakes, and I believe they should be compensated,” Rell said. “I also believe doctors and hospitals should do everything in their power to prevent those accidents from happening in the first place, and my proposals include measures to further that goal.”
She said that reform needs to “reach into the legal system as well, to make certain that no one is abusing the process.”
Rell’s proposals do not include a cap on non-economic damages. However, under her plan, if the proposals she has outlined do not result in a 15 percent reduction in medical malpractice insurance premiums over three years, the Insurance Commissioner is to convene a working group to determine an appropriate cap on non-economic damages.
The Governor’s proposals would:
· Amend the Certificate of Good Faith procedures to require that a doctor from the same area of expertise as the defendant file a detailed opinion of the case with the court
· Require that a jury consider all additional payments received by a plaintiff for the same injury when assessing damages
· Require that any payment over $200,000 be paid over time
· Reduce the “Offer of Judgment” penalty assessed on defendants for failing to settle certain lawsuits from 12 percent of damages to the prime rate
The Governor’s plan also would put stricter requirements on insurance companies to ensure that rates do not rise any higher than absolutely necessary. Insurance companies would be required to get prior approval from the Insurance Commissioner if they seek a rate increase 10 percent or more above their premium during the previous filing period.
The Insurance Commissioner would also work to encourage additional insurers to write medical malpractice policies in Connecticut.
To reduce the number of medical mistakes, hospitals would be required to develop patient safety protocols and to make these protocols available to the Department of Public Health (DPH) upon request. The Governor’s plan would also ensure DPH has the tools to adequately regulate those doctors who break the law.
DPH would be required to develop procedures to expedite the processing of medical malpractice complaints against doctors and update its disciplinary protocols to focus on patient safety and reducing the incidence of medical malpractice. DPH would also have to clarify existing physician profile data, including the nature of the doctor’s practice and medical liability insurer.
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