Voices: Malpractice costs

The Joplin Globe
Friday, September 26, 2008

The Globe article “Lower malpractice insurance lures doctors across state line” on Sept. 17 describes a group of doctors opening new offices in Galena after outgrowing their Joplin locations and speaks well of the Kansas business environment. But it fails to fully explain the underlying basis for these lower costs.
Both Kansas and Missouri have on their books severe “caps,” or limits on compensation for catastrophically injured patients, including children. While the Kansas limit is lower — we would say crueler — than Missouri’s, the difference between these two caps is relatively small compared to the seriousness of these cases, and can’t possibly explain a 50 percent difference in insurance rates for doctors.
But there are other differences between these two states that could help explain things. For example, Kansas, unlike Missouri, has a fund that provides excess medical malpractice coverage for doctors, so insurance carriers pay less and can keep premiums much lower.
Many academic studies now confirm that caps do nothing to lower insurance rates for doctors. That’s because the cause of high rates are the insurance industry’s mismanaged underwriting and investment practices combined with weak state regulation, not litigation. Both states were wrong to try to solve these insurance problems on the backs of injured patients, particularly with 98,000 people dying every year due to medical malpractice.
Andy Hoffman
Attorney/policy analyst
Center for Justice & Democracy
New York, N.Y.

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