NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Doctors Need Malpractice Insurance Relief

January 3, 2003

Escalating malpractice awards have prompted insurance companies to jack up doctors' malpractice premiums by as much as 80 percent in some states during the past two years, according to figures from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Doctors are responding by refusing to treat cases which might invite a high level of financial risk to themselves and their practices.

  • As insurance premiums have soared, doctors have been unable to pass along the cost increases because many are locked into managed-care health programs that limit their fees.
  • The idea of limiting damage awards has been popular since 1975, when California restricted awards for pain and suffering at $250,000.
  • In all, 18 states have placed limits on such awards -- ranging from $250,000 to $1 million

But experts say the doctor crisis is threatening health care in Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and West Virginia -- and six other states are said to be on the verge of a similar crisis.

President Bush has called for legislation to cap compensation for pain and suffering at $250,000.

Sources: Laura Parker, "Surgeons' Strike Forces Hospitals to Juggle Services," USA Today; and Frank J. Murray, "Lawsuit Fears Fuel Strikes by Surgeons," Washington Times; both appeared January 3, 2003.

For USA Today text


Browse more articles on Government Issues