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Letter to the Editor: Caps don't lower malpractice rates

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

To the editor:

In response to "GOP positioned to press agenda in 2005 session": Lawsuit caps do not reduce medical malpractice insurance rates. The nation's largest medical malpractice insurer, GE Medical Protective, has admitted that medical malpractice caps on damage awards and other limitations on recoveries for injured patients will not lower physicians' premiums.

The insurer's revelation was contained in a document submitted by GE Medical Protective to explain why the insurer planned to raise physicians' premiums 19 percent a mere six months after Texas enacted caps on medical malpractice awards. In 2003, Texas lawmakers passed a $250,000 cap on non-economic damage compensation to victims of medical malpractice caps after Medical Protective and other insurers lobbied for the change.

According to the Medical Protective filing: "Non-economic damages are a small percentage of total losses paid. Capping non-economic damages will show loss savings of 1 percent." The company also notes that a provision in the Texas law allowing for periodic payments of awards would provide a savings of only 1.1 percent. The insurer did not even provide its doctors that relief and eventually imposed a rate hike on its physician policyholders.

When the largest malpractice insurer in the nation tells a regulator that caps on damages don't work, every legislator, regulator and voter in the nation should listen. Medical Protective's rate increase and this smoking gun document prove that the insurance industry cannot be trusted on the issue of malpractice caps.

GREGORY D. PAWELSKI, Wernersville, Pa.