Med Mal Reform in New York

Physicians's ToolsI just read a good article in the Washington Post about the physician liability reform taking place in New York state. It seems that New York has realized two important things: 1) that New York physicians have some of the highest medical liability insurance premiums in the country and 2) that medical malpractice lawsuits are torture for everyone involved: physicians, patients, med mal insurance companies, and the countless others dragged into them. In an effort to minimize the length of time these cases take, and as a result, indirectly lower doctor liability insurance costs, among other costs, New York state has started to take matters into its own hands.

The program was piloted by a judge in the Bronx, through a federal grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and is poised to spread to other parts of New York. Currently, two hundred cases are in process in the new system and the results look promising. The program utilizes “judge-directed negotiation.” Essentially, a judge who specializes in medical matters shepherds the parties involved through a negotiation process and ultimately, a settlement. This is drastically different from the traditional process of a medical malpractice case, where often several judges could be involved over several years, and no one person is there to push the process along and push the parties for resolution. However, if a settlement can’t be reached with the new system, it is allowed to then proceed through the traditional channels.

The time savings is significant: an average med mal case takes about 3 years start to finish, and the new system reduces that to about six to nine months. And, that translates to cost savings and savings of valuable resources.