CONSUMER ATTORNEYS OF CALIFORNIA
INFORMATION BRIEF

Sharon J. Arkin, President


TO:  Members of the California State Legislature

FR:  Consumer Attorneys of California

DATE: March 15, 2005

RE:   “False Diagnosis” -New York Times – March 10, 2005


‘False Diagnosis’ is an opinion-editorial from the March 10, 2005 edition of the New York Times*.  Three of the authors are law professors and the fourth author is a professor of both medicine and law.  Their findings include:

After studying a database maintained by the Texas Department of Insurance that contains all insured malpractice claims resolved between 1988 and 2002, we saw no evidence of a tort crisis.

In short, as far as medical malpractice cases are concerned, for 15 years the Texas tort system has been remarkably stable. Texas's situation is not unique.

One study of Florida's experience from 1990 to 2003 also found declines in paid claims per 100 practicing physicians as well as per 100,000 population.

Over the same period in Missouri, the total number of malpractice claims fell by about 40 percent and the number of paid claims dropped almost by half.

Malpractice premiums have risen sharply in Texas and many other states. But, at least in Texas, the sharp spikes in insurance prices reflect forces operating outside the tort system.

The medical malpractice system has many problems, but a crisis in claims, payouts and jury verdicts is not among them. Thus, the federal "solution" that Mr. Bush proposes is both overbroad and directed at the wrong problem.

Meaningful insurance reform is the solution to lowering medical malpractice insurance rates.   California’s MICRA should not be used as a model for the nation.  In fact, the MICRA cap should be eliminated, particularly in cases resulting in death or serious injury.  At a minimum, in other cases the cap must be increased to reflect years of inflation which has eroded the value of the cap to less than $68,225.  To adjust for inflation alone since 1975, the cap should be increased to $916,025. 

For additional information about eliminating or raising the MICRA cap, feel free to contact the Consumer Attorneys of California office at (916) 442-6902.

*To see the complete opinion-editorial log on to: www.nytimes.com