One of the highlights of city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s campaign for mayor was his arrest at a protest against the closure of another city hospital. De Blasio’s primary solution was and continues to be to throw money at the problem, but unless we address the spiraling costs of lawsuits, New York hospitals will continue to close.
Due to lawsuits, medical liability insurance in New York costs more than anywhere else in the United States — double that of the next highest state, California. Despite these outrageous costs, we as taxpayers are forced to subsidize our broken medical liability insurance system to the tune of $150 million a year.
But it is more than a cost problem. As these hospital closings show, New York’s astronomical medical liability costs are affecting access to healthcare, often by those who need it most. In New York, 19 hospitals have closed since 2000, leaving several neighborhoods underserved.
Many still recall the 2008 attempted closure of Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital’s maternity ward because of liability costs.
Frivolous lawsuits are a key driver of the cost of medical liability insurance in New York. According to a study at the Harvard School of Public Health, more than half of medical malpractice lawsuits analyzed were frivolous or of uncertain merit.
We must enact common sense lawsuit reforms to solve our medical liability crisis. Until we do so, New York’s hospitals will continue to close, de Blasio’s protests notwithstanding.
Thomas B. Stebbins
Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York