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Medical Malpractice Reform Proposed In New York



New York, like many states, is facing a budget crisis. Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed wide-ranging reforms to the state's Medicaid program to help stem the tide of red ink. Some of the proposals are a stark departure from prior practice, such as moving all Medicaid patients from the present fee-based system to a managed care system. However, Governor Cuomo has proposed another change that may be even more controversial: a $250,000 cap on all pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases.

In New York State, jury awards for pain and suffering in medical practices have been unlimited. Doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers have contended for years that unlimited jury awards have unfairly penalized them because of jury sympathy for injured patients, regardless of whether the health care providers were negligent. It appears now that they have found an ally in Governor Cuomo.

The governor's recommendations primarily take aim at the more than $18 million New York is expected to spend on Medicaid in 2012. According to Yahoo, more than $2.3 million is projected to be saved by the proposals. A large part of these savings are expected to come from Medicaid rate cuts to hospitals and doctors. The doctors and hospitals, in turn, are expected to save money from lowered medical malpractice insurance premiums because of the suggested cap on medical malpractice verdicts.

Proposed Cap On Jury Awards

Although the proposals have been lauded by the medical community, not all are enthused by the proposed cap on jury awards. One is Sheldon Silver, who is the Speaker of the New York State Assembly. Silver, who is also a trial attorney, has repeatedly led the charge to block similar legislation restricting awards to malpractice victims in the past. Silver's office has not issued any comment on the proposal yet. Regardless, Governor Cuomo has reportedly threatened to resort to other tactics if the legislature does not pass the reforms. According to the New York Daily News, one such tactic would be to append the proposed reforms to legislation required to keep the state government running. A defeat of the reforms would also result in shutting down the state government. The battle over medical malpractice reform in New York promises to be long and protracted.

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