Access to Care Rises with Punitive Damages Capped, AMA Says

The American Medical Association said yesterday its new analysis of independent research proves that capping punitive damages in medical malpractice cases both reduces doctors' malpractice insurance premiums and increases the number of physicians available to care for patients.

AMA has long advocated medical liability reform (caps on non-economic damages), and several states, including California and Texas, have placed caps on these damages. Where caps are not in place, physicians face "sky-high" premiums driven by "runaway jury awards," the association argues.

"For many patients, access to care is put in jeopardy because premiums for many physician specialties remain at or near all-time highs," said AMA Immediate-Past President Dr. William G. Plested III. "Premium rates have largely stabilized, however, they remain at the highest levels in history. For example, liability premiums for obstetrician-gynecologists in New Jersey have more than doubled since 2000 to $171,000, forcing many physicians to stop delivering babies."

AMA's current review of recent literature, "The Impact of Liability Pressure and Caps on Damages on the Healthcare Market: An Update of Recent Literature," summarizes the most recent research on medical liability reforms. Placing a $250,000 cap on punitive damages in states that don't have effective reforms in place could reduce premiums by $1.4 billion nationwide, AMA says.

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