Doctors: Malpractice system hurts

Syracuse Post-Standard
Saturday, August 16, 2008

Doctors are hoping to get Gov. David Paterson and state legislators to fix the state's medical malpractice insurance system when they return to Albany Tuesday for a special session.

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer established a task force last summer to pinpoint causes of high medical malpractice costs and propose solutions. The task force has not met since December and the issue languished after Spitzer's resignation in March.
The system's biggest problem is a deficit-ridden medical malpractice insurance reserve fund used to insure the state's riskiest doctors. Former Gov. George Pataki's administration took $691 million from that fund and put it in the state's general fund. Dinallo has threatened to impose a surcharge on doctors to replenish that reserve fund unless the Legislature comes up with another solution.
The state could replenish that fund by imposing a small surcharge on all property-casualty and health insurance premiums in the state, according to Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a consumer group. She served on the medical liability task force. "It would be barely noticeable in most people's premiums," she said. It also would eliminate the need to impose a costly surcharge on doctors, she said.

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