Governor Cuomo’s Bold Move

The state of New York is taking center stage in the effort to determine whether this country can bring much-needed improvements to our flawed medical liability system.

The state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, is proposing a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical liability cases.  The idea emerged from the governor’s Medicaid reform task force, which also proposed an indemnity fund for brain-damaged infants.

Some may be surprised that a state with strong Democratic leanings would be proposing a serious tort reform measure, but New York has strong motivation to do so.  The state’s Medicaid program is in a state of crisis, with projections showing that it will account for over half of New York’s budget by 2020.  The governor’s medical liability recommendations would bring $700 million in Medicaid savings.

Plus, malpractice insurance rates in New York are unacceptably high.  New York hospitals are paying more than $1.5 billion in combined litigation-related expenses and soaring premiums threaten to make specialists like obstetricians and neurologists hard to find for New York patients.

This will be a gloves-off political brawl.  The American Medical Association has backed the governor’s measure.  The state’s trial bar association vigorously opposes it.  Republicans control the state Senate and have backed the liability reform proposal.  The Democratically-controlled state assembly has already dismissed the non-economic damages cap.

Let’s hope Governor Cuomo stands firm for his proposal.  New York and the nation need this important and essential progress.