Attorney Thomas J. Keegan, Jr. said President Barack Obama’s proposal to reduce the number of medical malpractice lawsuits being filed nationwide will not benefit the people of New York in any way because such legal mechanisms are already in place to cut down on the number of frivolous lawsuits being filed in the state. He further states that, contrary to what the president said, New Yorkers will not see a reduction in health care costs.
As part of proposed health care reform package, President Obama is looking to implement medical malpractice reform as a way to reduce health care costs. Although he is looking to rein in medical malpractice lawsuits, he said he will not endorse any cap on jury awards.
Medical errors result in the loss of 100,000 lives and injuries to more than 1.5 million people at a cost of $17-29 billion to U.S. taxpayers, according to the Institute of Medicine. Fearing lawsuits, doctors and hospitals do not openly discuss their mistakes. Doctors have complained that “defensive medicine”— ordering tests and procedures so they do not get sued — is the reason for the rise in health costs.
Mr. Keegan argues that President Obama’s proposal will not make any difference whatsoever to New York State residents. “In New York, it is very difficult to file and prosecute these kinds of cases,” Mr. Keegan said. “By far, the vast majority of cases that are filed are meritorious cases and are eventually resolved; they are defended with enormous vigor by the liability insurance carriers who spend unlimited amounts in defense instead of owning up to clear and serious injuries caused by error and paying the injured parties.”
A 1986 amendment to the Civil Practice Law and Rules and subsequent case law, as well as stringent requirements of the uniform court rules in New York State regarding medical malpractice lawsuits, have all had an impact in reducing frivolous lawsuits. “Since then, we have not had a significant number of frivolous lawsuits filed in New York. Other jurisdictions in the country have also followed suit,” he said.
Based on 2007 numbers, The Congressional Budget Office has indicated that reducing malpractice costs by 25% would cut less than one half of one percent out of the nation’s health care costs. “With all due respect to my friends in the medical field, the overtesting is driven far more by the fiscal benefit to the medical profession than the president’s misguided assertions,” Mr. Keegan said. “If you think the president changing these rules will result in a significant saving in medical costs, you are sadly mistaken.”
Keegan & Keegan, Ross & Rosner, LLP
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