Advertisement

To keep West Virginia's docs, malpractice reform is a must

January 03, 2003

A walkout by more than two dozen surgeons who work in hospitals in West Virginia's Northern Panhandle is another warning that unless the state solves its malpractice insurance problems, health care all over the state will be at risk.

The New Year's Day walkout affected four hospitals, forcing officials there to cancel surgeries. In one case, the work stoppage required the transport of one patient 90 miles to another facility. It came despite last-minute attempts by state officials to avert it.

The problem, according to doctors who spoke to the Associated Press, is the soaring cost of malpractice insurance. In some cases, doctors said, costs have risen thousands of dollars for physicians who've never had a claim filed against them.

Last year, after a number of malpractice insurers stopped offering coverage in West Virginia, the state set up a limited program run through the state's Board of Risk and Management and enrolled about 500 physicians. But the state medical society said to make it truly successful, the state would have to kick in twice the $10 million lawmakers had promised. At present, the state program's rates are among the highest in the nation.

Advertisement

Last year doctors also sought changes in the malpractice laws that would cut awards for pain and suffering - currently capped at $1 million - to $250,000. Doctors also wanted a change in the state's collateral source rule, which now allows injured parties to get paid from several different sources for the same injury.

As we said in August of last year, reasonable people can differ on the details of a new bill. But like anyone in business, doctors need some guarantee that their insurance costs won't increase by 25 percent in a single year.

Gov. Bob Wise is due to offer a proposed solution January 8 in his State of the State address. State lawmakers inclined to nit-pick the proposal should be aware that if there's an exodus of doctors from West Virginia, citizens will know just who to blame.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|