Paterson freezes malpractice insurance rates

By MICHAEL GORMLEY (AP)
http://www.amny.com

ALBANY, N.Y. – Gov. David Paterson is freezing medical malpractice insurance rates for a year as he seeks a broader solution to high business costs doctors claim are driving them out of New York.

The freeze heads off a scheduled surcharge due in June 2009 that could have increase some physicians’ rates by as much as 30 percent.

The New York Public Interest Research Group says the freeze shouldn’t affect patient care and that time is needed to work out the difficult problem of high rates.

“We think there are a lot of problems,” said NYPIRG’s Russ Haven. “This basically freezes the status quo going forward and is buying the governor and the various stake holders some time to address the issue.”

Physicians claim high insurance rates are driving them out of the state and reducing the availability of care.

NYPRIG disagrees, saying there are plenty of physicians and high rates aren’t forcing any away from New York. Haven said the complex problem involves bad doctors making mistakes and how insurance companies rate the insurance risk of physicians.

On Friday, Paterson signed the bill passed earlier this week by the Legislature.

“A huge increase in medical practice rates would be harmful to doctors, hospitals and to the millions of New Yorkers who depend on them for health care,” said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, said the delay will lead to greater patient safety.

“New York’s medical malpractice insurance rates are among the highest rates in the nation,” Silver said. “This legislation allows us to continue and indeed broaden our discussions towards enhancing patient safety while stabilizing the medical malpractice insurance market.”

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