Limit on malpractice claims helps insurance companies

In 2003, Florida overhauled its medical malpractice laws. Lawmakers claimed that the changes would reduce insurance costs for medical providers and make health care more affordable. While the changes certainly made it more difficult for injured patients to obtain damages for medical malpractice, the primary benefit appears to be improving the bottom line for insurance companies. According to a report by the Office of Insurance Regulation, insurance rates dropped very slightly for doctors, while nurses, podiatrists, dentists, chiropractors and other professionals faced increased insurance rates.

Insurance companies have reduced insolvency rates and lowered defense expenses, while collecting a total of $559 million in insurance premiums in 2010. The golden age being experienced by insurance carriers comes at the expense of patients who have been harmed by medical malpractice. The 2003 changes limited the lawsuits that could be filed against providers. With fewer avenues to seek proper compensation, many victims of medical malpractice are left without the support they need.

The Office of Insurance Regulation is required by law to issue this report. Without it, it might not be clear that the 2003 changes to medical malpractice laws have had little demonstrable effect on heath care costs. They have not improved patient health or the quality of medical services received by Florida residents. They have not substantially changed insurance costs for medical professionals. The changes took a profitable insurance industry and made it more profitable.

It is unfortunate that the increased profits had to come from the victims of substandard medical care.

Source: The Current, “Medical malpractice market is healthy, state regulators say,” by Christine Jordan Sexton, 3 October 2011.