Doctors Will Stay in Hawaii if State Legislature Implements Tort Reform Bill

By Hawaii Medical Association,

The Hawaii Medical Association strongly supports HB1992, HD1.

This bill proposes to establish a cap on non-economic damages and limits on attorney fees. The HMA supports these actions because they will help to stabilize now volatile medical malpractice insurance premiums, which is a major cause of Hawaii’s patient access to care crisis.

We support this bill for the following reasons:

Establishes A Cap On Non-Economic Damages

* A $250,000 cap on non-economic damages has been proven to stabilize otherwise volatile premiums.
* Non-economic damages are compensation for pain and suffering, loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment. These are difficult damages to quantify and a cap would establish a much needed standard.

Defines Economic Damages

* The bill provides a much needed definition of economic damages.
* The HMA proposes no cap on economic damages, which are compensation for past and future medical expenses, rehabilitative expenses, living expenses and lost income or income-equivalents (in the case of a homemaker, for instance). These damages can be quantified.
* The HMA proposes no cap on punitive damages, which is intended to punish the defendant.

Proportionate Allocation of Economic and Non-Economic Damages

* The bill will allow the allocation of damages based on his or her proportionate percentage of negligence or other fault. We believe it is fair to hold each physician responsible for their share of negligence or other fault.

In other states, legislation similar to HB1992, HD1, have been powerful tools for stabilizing medical malpractice insurance premiums in other states.

Formerly in crisis, the state of Texas has successfully overcome its patient access to care crisis in large part due to establishing caps on non-economic damages. Improvements include:

* Licensing 3324 new doctors in 2007, including a net gain of 186 obstetricians
* Bringing specialty care to underserved areas, including the addition of 189 physicians in Rio Grande Valley and other rural areas
* Stabilized and reduced medical malpractice insurance premiums
* Four new admitted, rate-regulated malpractice insurance carriers (Advocate MD of the Southwest, Medical Liability Insurance Company of America, Medicus Insurance Company and the Physicians Insurance Company).

In order to address Hawaii growing patient access to care crisis, the Hawaii legislature needs to take major steps. HB1992, HD1 represents positive change that needed now to prevent failure of Hawaii’s healthcare system.

This testimony was sent to Rep. Robert Herkes, M.D., Chair and Rep. Angus McKelvey, Vice Chair of the House Consumer Protection & Commerce Committee by the Hawaii Medical Association including Cynthia J. Goto, M.D., President, Linda Rasmussen, M.D., Legislative Co-Chair, Philip Hellreich, M.D., Legislative Co-Chair, Paula Arcena, Executive Director and Dick Botti, Government Affairs Liaison. HB1992, HD1 Relating to Medical Liability addresses medical malpractice insurance costs by capping non-economic damages at $250,000, establishing a limit of $3,000,000 for non-economic damages determined by the court to be catastrophic damages, and requiring that economic damages be allocated based upon proportionate percentage of negligence. Sunsets June 30, 2013.
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