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Medical Malpractice Caps No Miracle Cure

Doctors around the country have been pushing for caps on medical malpractice awards in an attempt to slow rapid increases in medical malpractice insurance premiums, but it now appears that these caps have little to no actual effect on the cost of premiums. The caps are designed to limit the amount of money that juries may award plaintiffs for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, and were requested by doctors who blamed rising malpractice insurance costs on overzealous litigation attorneys. However, a recent study by Weiss Ratings, Inc., an independent provider of ratings and analyses of financial services companies, indicates otherwise.

The Weiss study reviewed the impact of medical malpractice caps in high-risk areas of medicine between 1991 and 2002, and the payout levels of insurance companies in that same time period. Among other things, the study found that doctors in the 19 states that implemented caps during the 12-year period suffered a 48% increase in median premiums. In the meantime, the 38 states without caps saw premiums increase by only 35%. Although the caps have been effective in slowing payouts from insurance companies, the Weiss study indicates that insurers are not passing these savings on to physicians, as legislators intended.

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