Board agrees to post some malpractice details
By Sarah Avery
RALEIGH – The N.C. Medical Board voted today to scale back some of the information that will be published on its Web site about settlements doctors make in medical malpractice lawsuits.
The board decided it will only post settlements more than $25,000 — the same amount that insurance companies use to raise a doctor’s malpractice premium. Amounts lower than $25,000 do not affect malpractice premiums for doctors.
So, for example, if a doctor settled with a patient for $10,000, that would not be published on the board’s Web site.
The board went into executive session to discuss the most controversial part of their Web-posting proposal — posting a seven-year history of malpractice settlements. Doctors have challenged this rule, saying it could breach contracts that ordered settlements not to be disclosed.
Litigation has already been verbally threatened should the board decide to post settlements from the last seven years, but no formal lawsuit has been filed. The board, which licenses and disciplines doctors, recently proposed posting medical malpractice payouts on its Web site.
More than 20 states already publish the information, and the North Carolina board won legislative approval to add the information to its Web page last year. The information won’t be posted in North Carolina until the fall of 2009.
Doctors, led by their lobbying group, the N.C. Medical Society, want less information made available. They contend the public might misconstrue a medical malpractice settlement as an admission of poor care or negligence.
A recent public hearing at the medical board’s Raleigh headquarters drew 32 speakers, most of whom wanted to limit the malpractice information. The opponents included doctors, hospital administrators, insurance company representatives and lawyers who defend doctors against malpractice lawsuits.
The medical board, however, conducted a public poll that showed a vast majority of respondents â€” 81 percent â€” support full disclosure of medical malpractice payments. In addition, 84 percent said they would like the information to show the past seven years of data when it goes online later this year.
The polling company, Public Policy Polling, concluded that “North Carolinians are extremely favorable to the idea of having easy access to the malpractice records of their medical practitioners. Almost all adults in the state want this website to be made available with seven years of archived information from the beginning, and most of them want all cases posted regardless of settlement cost or finding of substandard care.”
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