Limitations on the ability of medical malpractice victims to recover proper compensation do not reduce health care costs. The evidence is overwhelming that, in the areas where damages are capped or malpractice victims are otherwise restricted, health care costs do not drop as a result of these laws. The largest impact is that the already profitable business of providing health care, particularly substandard health care, becomes even more profitable. Despite this fact, the Florida Legislature is considering new legal standards to further protect hospitals, doctors and nursing homes from being held accountable for negligence.
Among the more controversial aspects of the bill being considered in Florida is a measure to make it impossible to hold hospitals accountable for negligent actions performed by doctors who are hired as independent contractors. Such a measure would likely ensure that hospitals greatly expanded the practice. Because Florida does not require doctors to have insurance to practice medicine, that could functionally eliminate the possibility of a patient receiving fair compensation after being injured or killed by a negligent doctor.
The quality of medical care has not improved dramatically, if at all, over the last decade. Errors are still very common and thousands of patients are killed every year by medical negligence. The unfortunate malpractice rate has not led to an expansion of medical malpractice claims, however, as lawsuits have dropped by half since Florida’s malpractice laws were last rewritten to protect the medical industry. The drop in lawsuits has, predictably, not led to a significant drop in the cost of health care.
Patient safety and the health care quality are not served by measures to restrict medical malpractice claims. Rather, unsafe practices and incompetent doctors are allowed to flourish when they are shielded from liability. Only by holding the medical industry accountable for its mistakes will health care improve.
Source: The Miami Herald, “In the midst of health care fight, Legislature pushes bills to limit medical liability,” by Mary Ellen Klas, 11 March 2013