New York State Legislature is again considering legislation (A.6696/S.6636) that would exponentially expand damages awardable in wrongful death lawsuits.
This bill is very nearly the same as one that was—thankfully—vetoed by Governor Hochul last January. The physicians at the Nassau County Medical Society and throughout the state of New York, under MSSNY, worked tirelessly to have this bill vetoed, and this issue is now resurfacing.
As doctors, we have great sympathy for the grieving families of our patients, and we understand that this legislation seeks to help them.
However, any legislation to expand costly lawsuits must be balanced to help prevent the enormous adverse impact this bill would have on our healthcare system.
Had the aforementioned bill been signed into law, it would have made it even more difficult for our struggling community hospitals and medical practices to continue to provide needed patient care.
While the new bill purports to respond to the governor’s veto, it, in fact, does not.
Gov. Hochul identified several reasons for vetoing the earlier bill, including that it “would increase already high insurance burdens on families and small businesses and further strain already-distressed healthcare workers and institutions” which would be “particularly challenging for struggling hospitals in underserved communities.”
Furthermore, the governor articulated her concerns that the bill “passed without a serious evaluation of the impact of these massive changes on the economy, small businesses, individuals, and the State’s complex health care system.”
The bill does not address these concerns. It would continue to enable the awards of new categories of damages that multiple actuarial studies show will lead to a nearly 40% growth in liability costs, which would be on top of the already unaffordable costs facing our physicians and hospitals.
Studies from Diederich Healthcare show that from 2019-2021, New York had the highest cumulative medical liability payouts of any state in the country, $1.4 billion, nearly twice as much as the 2nd highest state (Florida) and the 3rd highest state (Pennsylvania).
It also had the highest per capita liability payment, 33% more than the 2nd highest state, Pennsylvania. And it far exceeds states like California and Texas, which New York is competing with to retain and attract and retain the best and brightest physicians.
We just completed a Budget cycle where significant steps were taken to address the stability of our various community healthcare providers, particularly those providing needed care in our undeserved areas. Yet this legislation would undermine the positive steps the Legislature has taken to protect access to care.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my concerns.
I urge the state Legislature to work towards the adoption of truly balanced legislation that can expand the rights of grieving families, while at the same time preserving our patients’ ability to continue to receive needed healthcare in our communities.
Dr. David Podwall
Nassau County Medical Society president