New York Consumer Groups Criticize Medical Malpractice Plan

By Kenneth J. St. Onge

Consumer and health advocacy groups in New York are criticizing a yet-to-be-made public plan to create a medical malpractice indemnity pool which would cover medical expenses for injured patients.

Although no plan to create the pool has been announced, the coalition of groups – which includes the New York Public Interest Research Group, the Center for Medical Consumers and the Center for Justice and Democracy – has nevertheless sent letters to Gov. David Paterson decrying the rumored plan, which they say is a poor fix for the state’s health care troubles.

“We don’t want the state subsidizing unsafe doctors,” said John Guyette, a spokesman for CURE-NY, an umbrella group for patient safety organizations in the state.

The group, in the letter, chides the administration for what it says is a “lack of transparency and openness ” on the part of Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo and Health Commissioner Richard Daines. The two are heading efforts to find a solution to the Empire State’s skyrocketing malpractice premiums, and effort which began under the administration of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer

The groups say they have been left out of the process, and their input in helping solve the state’s health care issues has been ignored.

Andy Mais, spokesman for the New York’s Insurance Department said “the administration is continuing to work with all stakeholders in an effort to develop a workable proposal.” He declined further comment on the group’s letter.

The budding controversy comes amidst a significant annual leap – roughly 14 percent – in malpractice premiums in New York State, a trend that many doctors groups charge has forced doctors to retire early, or pack up and head elsewhere.

Earlier this month, The Medical Society of the State of New York staged a rally in the capitol in which they arranged empty chairs to symbolize many of the physicians who have already left New York to practice in other states, or sought early retirement. Many doctors left their white coats on the steps of the capitol to underscore the issue.

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