Ohio medical malpractice insurance can be very costly for physicians and healthcare professionals. And according to numbers just released by the Ohio Department of Insurance, the number of medical malpractice claims increased in 2009, the first time after four years of decline—not a positive indicator of times to come.
Despite the high price of medical malpractice insurance, and an uptick in claims for the most recent data year, the sky isn’t falling in Ohio. In fact, there have been some positive happenings in recent years. For one, medical malpractice insurance rates have fallen on average by 22 percent since the state’s most recent tort reforms went into effect. Take a look at the historic rates below.
The most recent, successful crack at tort reform in Ohio was with Senate Bill 80 (SB80), which passed through both houses of the state assembly and was signed into law on Jan. 7, 2005. As always with tort reform legislation, the section most crucial to positively influencing medical malpractice insurance premiums is SB80’s section limiting noneconomic damages.
SB80 limits noneconomic damages to the greater of $250,000 or an amount equal to three times the amount of economic damages up to $350,000 for each plaintiff or $500,000 for each occurrence. There are no limitations for catastrophic injuries, which are defined as permanent and substantial physical deformity, loss of use of a limb or loss of organ system function.
SB80 prohibits the judge or jury—when weighing noneconomic damages—from considering evidence of a defendant’s alleged wrongdoing, misconduct or guilt; evidence of the defendant’s wealth or financial resources; or any other evidence offered for the purpose of punishing the defendant. The legislation also provides for a post-judgment review when awards for noneconomic damages are challenged as excessive, including a de novo appellate court review.
Damage caps similar to the one in SB80 have twice, previous, been deemed unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court, but in 2009, the state’s highest court did uphold the legislation’s $250,000 limit to noneconomic damages.
SB80 was built on legislation passed three years earlier. Referred to as SB281, the 2002 bill defined a statute of limitation of one year after the cause of action accrues, when the plaintiff discovers the resulting injury. It applies a statute of repose that is four years from the date of injury, even if the injury is not yet discovered. SB281 also requires an affidavit of merit by a properly qualified expert and restricts expert testimony to those who practice in the same specialty or a specialty substantially similar to that of the defendant.
Following the 2010 midterm elections, Ohio’s state assembly is even more entrenched by the Republican Party than previous, and newly-elected republican Gov. John Kasich has promised even greater medical malpractice insurance reforms under his leadership.
Yes, Ohio has made tort reform strides during the last decade that were intended to deflate the cost of medical malpractice insurance, but premiums remain on the high-end of the national spectrum. High-risk specialties like neurosurgery, orthopedic spinal surgery and OB/Gyns pay as much as $145,000 in annual premium. This makes it especially critical to a physician’s business success to enlist the help of an experienced broker with access to all the Ohio’s major insurers when looking to acquire malpractice coverage.
This write-up of Ohio was put together by Michael Matray, the Editor of the Medical Liability Monitor