AMERICAN COLLEGE OF OBSTETRICIANS & GYNECOLOGISTS, DISTRICT II

MEDICAL SOCIETY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

NEW YORK CHAPTER, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF SURGEONS

NEW YORK STATE ACADEMY OF FAMILY PHYSICIANS

NEW YORK STATE CHAPTER, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS, DISTRICT I

NEW YORK STATE CHAPTER, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS, DISTRICT II

NEW YORK STATE CHAPTER, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF EMERGENCY PHYSICIANS

NEW YORK STATE OPHTHALMOLOGICAL SOCIETY

NEW YORK STATE PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION

NEW YORK STATE RADIOLOGICAL SOCIETY

NEW YORK STATE SOCIETY OF DERMATOLOGY AND DERMATOLOGIC SURGERY

NEW YORK STATE SOCIETY OF ORTHOPEDIC SURGEONS

 NEW YORK STATE SOCIETY OF OTOLARYNGOLOGY – HEAD AND NECK SURGERY

NEW YORK STATE SOCIETY OF PLASTIC SURGEONS

On behalf of the tens of thousands of physicians our organizations collectively represent who treat millions of New York patients every year, we are writing to you to express our deep concern regarding the seriously adverse consequences to patient care that could ensue if you enact legislation (such as A.285-A/S.6596) that would dramatically lengthen New York’s medical liability statute of limitations.  If enacted, the legislation would almost certainly prompt untenable increases in the already unaffordable medical liability insurance costs facing physicians and hospitals, at a time when no further cost increases can be tolerated. 

Instead, we call on you to work to assure our patients can receive the care they need by enacting comprehensive reform of New York’s dysfunctional medical liability adjudication system.

New York physicians have reached a breaking point.  They face extraordinary overhead costs, increasingly burdensome administrative hassles and declining payments from insurers, and costly and time-consuming mandates from government, while their patients now face unprecedented cost-sharing responsibilities.  At the same time, the demand for health care is expanding significantly both as a result of an aging population as well as the expanded availability of coverage as a result of the ACA enactment.  Reducing our staggering medical liability insurance cost burden is essential if we are to assure that are patients’ care needs can be met. 

Yet legislation such as that currently under consideration would do exactly the opposite.  An actuarial study of similar legislation indicated it would trigger a nearly 15% increase in medical liability premiums when no further increases can be tolerated.   With New York recently named in Medscape as the worst state in the country to deliver care, such legislation would undoubtedly drive many physicians out of New York, make it far more difficult to recruit physicians to practice here, and cause many physicians to further limit the care they provide to high-risk patients.   It could also have very serious ramifications on employment opportunities in communities across the State, as hospitals and physicians are major employers.

Many New York physicians already pay extraordinary medical liability premiums to remain in practice, premiums which are among the highest in the country.   Shockingly, many New York physicians pay premiums that far exceed $100,000 and in some cases even exceed $300,000.   A recent article in OB-GYN News details that New York State has by far and away the greatest number of medical liability awards of greater than $1 million (210), 3.5x highest than Illinois (61), the state with the second highest total and nearly 5x greater than California (43), a state with a far greater number of physicians.   There is a little wonder that, according to a recent report from Deiderich Healthcare (attached), New York has by far and away the highest total of medical liability payouts and per capita payouts than any other state in the country. 

At the same time as we face these exorbitant liability costs, most physicians are facing increasingly aggressive efforts by health insurance companies to constrain payment for the care we provide to our patients, a problem which has worsened as insurers have sought to limit patient care options by greatly reducing their networks and limiting out of network coverage options.   Exacerbating these problems is the fact that physicians and hospitals remain owed hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the collapse of health insurer Health Republic.  

While some have argued that many other states have “date of discovery” exceptions into their statutes of limitation for medical liability actions, many of these states have also included a far shorter outside limit to bring these actions than the 10 year period of time proposed in this legislation.  Furthermore, the vast majority of these states with “date of discovery” rules also have enacted caps on non-economic damages in medical liability actions, thereby significantly offsetting the enormous costs of this provision.  And in those states that have “date of discovery” rules, but no caps on damages, physicians pay far less in medical liability insurance premiums than those paid by physicians in New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley.   It is the proverbial “apples and oranges” situation.

It is important for you to understand that many physicians are already struggling to afford the liability premiums they must pay now to practice in New York.   Expanding liability at a time when many physician practices are already struggling to remain afloat endangers health care accessibility for your constituents.  An attempt to address one perceived problem will actually create a much bigger problem for the communities we serve.

We urge you as strongly as we can to oppose stand-alone liability legislation which would drive up liability costs, and instead urge you to support legislation that will comprehensively address this issue to reduce these huge costs and assure patients can continue to receive the care they need.

5/2/16