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The Syracuse Post Standard: Legal Reforms Can Make NY a Friendlier Place for Doctors

adamToday, The Syracuse Post Standard published commentary from LRANY’s Government Affairs Specialist, Adam Morey. The piece titled ‘Legal Reforms Can Make NY a Friendlier Place for Doctors‘ focused on a recent article covering a report naming New York as the second worst in the nation for doctors. In this editorial, Adam explains what drivers are pushing doctors out of our state.

An excerpt:

“It is no shock that New York is ranked so close to the bottom of the list of states for doctors to work (“NY second worst place in nation for doctors, study says,”March 29). Nearly 20 percent of all the medical liability payouts in the U.S. are paid in New York, an amount totaling more than the medical liability payouts for the whole Midwest. The fact is, the state’s high medical liability costs drive away medical professionals, reduce competition and weaken access to medical care for New Yorkers from Buffalo to Montauk.

The dominance of the trial lawyers lobby in New York state politics is largely to blame – in 2014 Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the Crain’s editorial board that “the trial lawyers are the single most powerful political force in Albany.” Not only do law firms and their associated PACs pour millions into the campaign coffers of the state’s elected officials, some legislators – like convicted former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver – are themselves personal injury trial lawyers; Silver was well known to carry the agenda of the lawyer’s lobby, blocking common-sense reform measures from ever coming to the floor.”

Read the full article

Statement from LRANY Executive Director on Guilty Verdict in Sheldon Silver’s Corruption Trial

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November 30, 2015

Statement from LRANY Executive Director on Guilty Verdict in Sheldon Silver’s Corruption Trial

“As we have been saying for years, Sheldon Silver’s ‘income’ was nothing more than a political payment to ensure he executed the agenda of the trial lawyers who paid him. We are left with a state decimated by lawsuits and litigation – highest medical liability costs, highest construction insurance costs, and an asbestos court rated the worst the nation. Today marks a new day where the legislature can start working for the people of New York, not just the trial lawyers.”

-Tom Stebbins, Executive Director, Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

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Contact: Tom Stebbins | Tstebbins@lrany.org | 518.424.5811  

The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit association of businesses, professionals, healthcare providers, membership organizations, taxpayers, and concerned citizens committed to changing New York’s legal system to help create jobs and energize our economy.

STATEMENT: LRANY Executive Director on Perry Weitz Testimony at Sheldon Silver Corruption Trial

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November 4, 2015

Statement from LRANY Executive Director on Perry Weitz Testimony at Sheldon Silver Corruption Trial

“We challenge Mr. Silver’s defense team to show one shred of evidence where Mr. Silver bucked the legislative will of Weitz and Luxenberg or the trial lawyers. New York State has the highest medical liability costs in the nation, our asbestos court is the country’s #1 ‘Judicial Hellhole’, and we are ranked highest for ‘litigation risk’ – all due in large part to Mr. Silver’s tenure as Assembly Speaker. One has to wonder if Mr. Silver was serving the state of New York, or the trial lawyers who were paying him.”

-Tom Stebbins, Executive Director, Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

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Contact: Tom Stebbins | Tstebbins@lrany.org | 518.424.5811  

The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit association of businesses, professionals, healthcare providers, membership organizations, taxpayers, and concerned citizens committed to changing New York’s legal system to help create jobs and energize our economy.

The Legislative Gazette: A Medical Liability Crisis

doctor medical lawsuitThe Legislative gazette recently posted a letter to the editor written by LRANY’s Scott W. Hobson.  The letter identifies the major issues faced by our medical liability system in New York and some simple steps we can take to fix it.

An excerpt:

“The Legislative Gazette’s recent piece on extending the statute of limitations for medical liability lawsuits only told one side of the story. Not once in the entire article did the reporter interview or quote any of the myriad of organizations who oppose extending the statute of limitations. Not once did the reporter even reference any of the many reasons that dramatically extending the statute of limitations for medical liability lawsuits would be bad policy for New York.

By every measure, New York is facing a medical liability crisis. Our state spends more on medical liability insurance, per capita, than any other state by an astronomical margin.”

Read full letter here.

 

For Immediate Release: Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York Opposes Medical Liability Statute of Limitations Expansion

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For Immediate Release
June 16, 2015
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
pstonbely@lrany.org
518.512.5265

Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York Opposes Medical Liability Statute of Limitations Expansion
Legislation to enact a “date of discovery” law for medical malpractice cases would harm patients, not help them, group says

(Albany, NY) – The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) has joined hospitals, doctors, and healthcare professionals in opposition to S.911/A.285, a bill that would expand the statute of limitations for medical lawsuits up to 10 years. Citing higher costs and decreased access to care, the group said the state’s medical system could not take another cost increase.

The proposed legislation seeks to start the statute of limitations at the point at which an alleged act of medical malpractice is discovered, rather than the point at which it actually occurred. LRANY called this extension a “death blow” to New York’s medical liability system which already accounts for 20% of all medical liability payouts in the country.

“New York’s medical liability costs are already the highest in the nation by a wide margin” said Tom Stebbins, executive director of LRANY. “This bill would make a bad situation far worse, leading to higher premiums, closed hospitals, and more doctors fleeing our state.”

Stebbins also expressed surprise that the legislature would consider a bill heavily favored by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association in light of the recent scandals that have rocked Albany. “The people of New York are watching, and they are tired of the legislature giving in to the trial lawyers’ special interests. This bill is the perfect example of a trial lawyer giveaway – massive profits for them, increased costs for the rest of us.”

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The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit association of businesses, professionals, healthcare providers, membership organizations, taxpayers, and concerned citizens committed to changing New York’s legal system to help create jobs and energize our economy.

See PDF Release Here

Informational Memo Here

Trial Lawyers Push Dramatic Expansion of Medical Liability

doctor medical lawsuitAs the end of the 2015 legislative session draws near, the personal injury lawyer lobby has engaged in an all-out push to extend New York’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases.

Under current law, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is 2.5 years after the act or omission which gave rise to the injury. In cases where there is continuous treatment, cases where an object is left inside a surgical patient, and cases where the patient is a minor, the statute of limitations is “tolled,” meaning the point at which the clock starts is extended.

In a dramatic departure from the existing standard, the personal injury lawyers are pushing for a bill which would start the statute of limitations at the point at which the injury was discovered by the patient. This means that a patient could bring a medical malpractice lawsuit for an injury that happened as long as a decade ago.

That’s very bad news for doctors and hospitals which would face such “stale” claims. Statutes of limitations are designed to balance two important interests – the right of a plaintiff to seek compensation if they are harmed, and the rights of defendants not to be subjected to old claims against which they cannot adequately defend themselves. Think about it – what were you doing on this day ten years ago? What were you wearing? Who did you talk to and exactly what did you say? Now imagine that you are under oath. Oh, and you don’t have any written records because you were only required to keep 2.5 years’ worth on file. It’s easy to see how these types of cases are fertile ground for shakedown lawsuits.

But believe it or not, there’s another, even bigger, danger to this proposal besides the risk defendants won’t get a fair trial. It’s that patients themselves, the very people this bill purports to help, would bear much of the cost.

You probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that New York leads the nation in medical malpractice lawsuit costs, despite the fact that our doctors and hospitals are among the safest in the world. But what is truly surprising is just how bad our system has gotten.

New York now accounts for 20% of all medical malpractice payouts in the entire nation. Two of the three largest medical malpractice insurers are technically insolvent. Despite the fact that our medical malpractice rates are set by the state Department of Financial Services and our insurers have the lowest profit margin in the entire nation, insurance premiums are so high that taxpayers must subsidize them to the tune of over $100 million annually. It’s so bad that some hospitals are now forgoing medical liability insurance entirely, gambling that they will have enough reserves to pay claims. These are huge red flags that our insurance market is failing.

Dramatically lengthening our statute of limitations would cause medical malpractice premiums to explode by as much as 25%. Think of it as the grand piano that broke the camel’s back. And because of the 10-year window, doctors would have to carry insurance for a decade after they retire. For some physicians, medical liability insurance is over $300,000 a year. Do the math. If you were a doctor, would you stay in New York?

Doctors are doing the math, and the answer for many is clear: get out of New York by any means necessary. Some move to Texas or California, others simply retire early. Still others steer clear of high-risk specialties such as obstetrics and surgery. That adds up to a shortage of over 1,000 physicians, as recently calculated by the Healthcare Association of New York State. Between 2008 and 2012, the national average per capita growth in total physician supply was 6.04 per 100,000, yet New York’s per capita supply grew by only 2.3 per 100,000, barely one third the national average. Thirty-seven states performed better than New York, including states that have enacted key tort reforms such as Texas, California, Wisconsin, and Florida.

There’s little debate that higher liability costs will result in service cutbacks and hospital closures, most heavily in obstetrical services. Over a dozen hospitals have stopped providing regular obstetrical services due to liability costs since 1995, and eight upstate counties currently have zero practicing Ob-Gyns. This burden falls disproportionately on women and low income families for whom traveling greater distances for medical care is difficult or impossible.

The personal injury lawyer lobby is chomping at the bit to pass “date of discovery” legislation for one simple reason: it will make lawyers a lot of money. They’ve dumped an astounding amount of money into New York politics– more than ten million dollars in political contributions and lobbying spending since 2006 – and now they’re telling legislators it’s time to kiss the ring.

Is that really what’s best for New York?

Crain’s New York: How to Heal the City’s Hospitals; Tame Trial Lawyers.

MedicalToday, Crain’s New York Business published a letter to the editor written by LRANY Execuitve Director, Thomas B. Stebbins.  This letter focused on the need for medical liability reform in our state as numerous hospitals are closing under the crushing cost of medial liability insurance due to the high risk imposed on practitioners by the current legal climate.

An excerpt:

“News that city hospitals need a billion dollars to stay solvent is no surprise (“New York City hospitals hit up state, feds for another $1 billion,” May 20). For years, hospitals in the city have been closing under the crushing weight of medical liability insurance costs.

It doesn’t have to be this way. New York’s medical liability insurance costs are the highest in the nation by a truly shocking margin, due in large part to the trial lawyers’ control of state policy in Albany. The trial lawyers’ lobbyists work to expand liability for doctors and hospitals and prevent many of the reasonable reforms undertaken by other states to control litigation costs.”

Read the Full Letter Here

LRANY Applauds Introduction of Important Lawsuit Reform Bills

On May 14th, two critically important lawsuit reform bills were introduced in the New York State senate – asbestos trust transparency reform (see issue VIDEO here) and a sliding scale for contingency fees (see issue VIDEO here).

The first bill, S.5504, was introduced by Senator Tom O’Mara (R, Big Flats). This legislation would bring transparency to the asbestos trust system, and reduce fraud and abuse. Currently, those who allege harm from asbestos products may file a lawsuit against a solvent manufacturer, and/or pursue a claim against a trust established by a bankrupt manufacturer. Shockingly, however, the law does not require plaintiffs in asbestos actions to disclose whether they previously recovered from trust funds. Often, claimants will seek recoveries from both the tort system and the trust system alleging conflicting or even outright fraudulent claims. This bill would prevent fraud by requiring the disclosure of past, pending, and anticipated trust claims when a lawsuit is filed, ensuring a more equitable and transparent system.

The second bill, S.5499, was introduced by Senator George Amedore (R, Scotia), and would apply a sliding scale to attorneys’ contingency fees on verdicts and settlements over $250,000. The goal of this legislation is to allow victims to keep a greater percentage of their final award, and reduce the soaring cost of general liability insurance.

Contingency fee scales are a tried and true approach to reducing non-meritorious litigation – in fact, New York already has such a scale for medical malpractice cases. Enacted in 1986 as a response to a crippling medical liability crisis, the fee scale was integral in stabilizing insurance premiums and preventing the loss of health care services across the state. The Greater New York Hospital Association now estimates that without a contingency fee scale, medical liability costs would be as much as 40% higher, an increase of over $600 million annually. Broadening the fee scale to include all personal injury tort actions will lower liability costs across the board, saving taxpayers and businesses millions while still ensuring victims receive the compensation they deserve.

LRANY applauds Senator O’Mara and Senator Amedore for their commitment to advancing common sense legal reforms. New York has no future as the lawsuit capital of the world, and these two pieces of legislation are an important step in the right direction.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Lawsuit Reform Group Releases White Paper on New York’s Medical Liability Crisis

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 23, 2014
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
518.512.5265
pstonbely@lrany.org

Lawsuit Reform Group Releases White Paper on New York’s Medical Liability Crisis

(Albany, NY) – The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY), a nonprofit advocacy group focused on legal reform, released a white paper today entitled “Condition Critical: New York’s Medical Liability Crisis.” The paper highlights the impact of New York’s legal climate on medical liability premiums and the corresponding effect on the medical profession.

The paper notes that New York has the highest per capita medical liability payouts in the nation and now accounts for 20% of all payouts in the country with only 6% of the population. Correspondingly, medical liability insurance premiums for New York’s physicians and hospitals are among the highest in the nation, exceeding $330,000 annually for some specialties. The paper claims that both the total cost of defending medical liability lawsuits and insurance premiums have increased significantly.

The paper also analyzed publicly available financial information for New York’s medical liability insurers and found they are operating at the lowest profit margin in the nation. The paper further notes that two of the three largest carriers remain technically insolvent.

Lastly, the paper highlights New York’s ongoing physician shortage, which is currently estimated to be over 1,000. New York ranks 28th in the nation for retention of physicians from undergraduate medical education, and 75% of hospitals have reported difficulty recruiting physicians due to shortages.

LRANY Executive Director Tom Stebbins stressed the role of New York’s lawsuit system as a fundamental driver of the crisis. “New York’s medical liability system is buckling under the weight of litigation, much of it either weak on the merits or outright frivolous. Meanwhile, the entrenched personal injury lawyer lobby spends millions every year to block reforms to our regressive and archaic civil justice system, which ultimately hurts healthcare providers, patients, and taxpayers.”

The white paper recommends the enactment of comprehensive liability reform to create safeguards against abusive litigation. Said Stebbins, “For years physicians, healthcare providers, insurers, and tort reform advocates have warned of a coming medical liability crisis. Now that the crisis is here, New York must take action.”

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The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit association of businesses, professionals, healthcare providers, membership organizations, taxpayers, and concerned citizens committed to changing New York’s legal system to help create jobs and energize our economy.

PDF Press Release                  PDF White Paper

LRANY Slams NYPIRG Physician Report

docFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: (Albany, NY) – Today, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY), a non-partisan nonprofit advocacy group focused on state-level lawsuit reform, released a report entitled: “The Doctor is in…Another State: How NYPIRG’s Physician Supply Report Misses the Mark.” The report highlights serious flaws in the New York Public Interest Group’s (NYPIRG) recent report “The Doctor Is In: New York State’s Increasing Number of Physicians,” which claimed that no physician shortage exists in New York, and that high medical malpractice rates do not affect physician supply.

The first glaring flaw, LRANY contends, is that the report presents only the current per capita number of physicians, and fails to account for long-term trends. LRANY analyzed physician supply data for 50 states between 2008 and 2012, and found that total physician supply increased in nearly all states. The national average per capita growth in total physician supply was 6.04 per 100,000, yet New York’s per capita supply grew by only 2.3 per 100,000, barely one third the national average. Thirty-seven states performed better than New York, including states that have enacted key tort reforms such as Texas, California, Wisconsin, and Florida.

Tom Stebbins, LRANY’s Executive Director, said “NYPIRG is clearly trying to manipulate the numbers to support their political agenda – which is closely aligned with the personal injury trial lawyer lobby.”

The LRANY report also highlights that NYPRIG’s claim that there is no physician shortage in New York is unsupported by the underlying data, which shows only that physician supply has increased in New York. NYPRIG’s claim that this demonstrates that no physician shortage exists is invalid because it does not also account for the total need for physicians, which has increased at a greater rate. LRANY points out that excluding New York City, the Healthcare Association of New York (HANYS) recently estimated New York’s total physician shortage to be over 1,000. Seventy-five percent of hospitals surveyed by HANYS reported that the recruitment of primary care physicians was very difficult due to shortages, while 87% indicated that their ability to recruit physicians was the same or worse than the previous year.

Lastly, the group notes that the NYPIRG report is critically flawed because it claims there is little evidence that our state’s high medical liability premiums are impacting the number of physicians that practice in New York. Said Stebbins, “Of course NYPIRG didn’t find a connection between high liability insurance rates and doctors leaving our state – they didn’t bother to ask the doctors.” Stebbins pointed to the case of Dr. Wendy Villalobos, an OB-GYN who formerly practiced in the Bronx. “Her premiums were $186,000 each year. When she moved to Texas, which enacted comprehensive lawsuit reform in 2003, her premiums fell to just 20% what they were in New York.” Stebbins also highlighted a recent survey by the American Medical Group Association which found that financial considerations top the list of reasons that physicians relocate.

“The bottom line,” said Stebbins, “is that high medical liability premiums driven by our out-of-control legal system are hindering New York’s ability to attract and retain qualified physicians.”

The full report can be accessed here.