For Immediate Release: August 22, 2008
GOVERNOR PATERSON ANNOUNCES ONE-YEAR FREEZE ON MEDICAL MALPRACTICE RATES FOR PHYSICIANS IN NEW YORK STATE
Freeze Will Deliver Fiscal Relief to Doctors Hit With Sky-High Premiums
Governor David A. Paterson today announced that he has signed legislation to freeze medical malpractice rates for physicians in New York for one year in an effort to provide desperately-needed premium relief for doctors already overburdened by soaring premiums. The legislation will also allow the state additional time to continue its work to develop a long-term solution to the medical malpractice problem confronting the state.
The bill, which was part of the budget package signed into law by the Governor yesterday, will freeze medical malpractice premium rates for physicians and suspend an anticipated surcharge until June 30, 2009. Without this legislation, many physicians would have seen as much as a 30% increase in rates.
"I want to thank the Legislature for stabilizing malpractice rates for the short term, thereby ensuring that our doctors can continue to provide quality care in New York without getting suffocated by more back-breaking fiscal burdens," said Governor Paterson. "However, our work is now cut out for us, and we remain committed to creating comprehensive and meaningful medical malpractice reform."
Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said: "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. This rate freeze is a temporary measure that will give us more time to work out new reforms and solutions to this complex problem that is in the best interests of everyone that would be impacted."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said: "New York's Medical Malpractice Insurance rates are among the highest rates in the nation. This legislation allows us to continue and indeed broaden our discussions towards enhancing patient safety while stabilizing the medical malpractice insurance market, both of which have long been priorities of the Assembly. We applaud Governor Paterson for his leadership and commitment to enhancing patient safety."
Eric Dinallo, Superintendent of the New York State Insurance Department and Chair of the Medical Malpractice Liability Taskforce, said: "The Insurance Department did not levy the surcharges or raise the rates as would have been required by law and by the insurance companies' financial condition in hopes of reform. While comprehensive reform has not yet been achieved, much groundwork is being laid. We will continue to work with the Legislature, the medical community and the lawyers to achieve meaningful reform to reduce costs, reduce the number of people injured by malpractice, protect those who are injured, improve the financial health of the insurance companies and create a competitive market for medical malpractice insurance."
Richard F. Daines, M.D., Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, said: "This temporary freeze demonstrates the Governor's and Legislature's commitment to assuring that New Yorkers have uninterrupted access to the full range of health care services. At the same time, it will foster an environment in which the stakeholders can come together to continue the hard work we began last year to reach an agreement on real reform. I call upon the physicians who will benefit from this freeze to join the Department of Health in our continuing effort to increase patient safety and eliminate preventable medical errors."
Michael Rosenberg, M.D., President of the Medical Society of the State of New York, said: "I want to thank Governor Paterson for his outstanding leadership in securing passage of and signing into law this vitally important legislation. The imposition of a premium increase at this time could have de-stabilized our health care delivery system to the serious detriment of our patients and of all New Yorkers. Governor Paterson's leadership on this matter, along with the support of the Legislature, has been truly outstanding and has allowed us to avoid what could otherwise have been an extremely serious situation."
Agreement on the rate freeze was reached during the special session of the Legislature held on August 19. The bill will hold rates stable as the Legislature and Governor Paterson continue to work towards reforms that would provide significant and long-term premium relief for physicians, enhance patient safety and stabilize the medical malpractice insurance market. The State is hopeful that these reforms can be finalized during the next regular legislative session.
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