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Indiana's medical malpractice cap increase overdue

 

Some in Indiana are wondering when the state will increase the cap on medical malpractice damages. While the law has been challenged in past years, the fact that it has not been increased since it was created in 1999, suggests to some that a challenge to the cap could potentially overturn it on constitutional grounds.

The problem is inflation. Even if you were to just look at the standard Cost of Living calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you would find that the medical malpractice damage cap of $1.25 million today is only worth $880,000 in 1999 dollars. 

 

This means it would have to be increased to $1.79 million in today's dollars just to be equal to the $1.25 million in 1999.

In reality, the situation is even worse, because the inflation rate for healthcare expenses has increased much faster than the general rate of inflation for all goods and services.

So, when a lobbyist for the State Medical Association complains that increasing the damage cap by $400,000 will increase insurance costs to doctors by 15 percent, no one should shed too many tears. This amount is what would be necessary to bring the damage cap into alignment with the legislative intent of 1999.

Because the cap has remained untouched for more than 15 years, doctors have been receiving a discount on their insurance. Therefore, the fact that an increase in those insurance premiums would erase some of that discount does not exactly make it a hardship for the doctors.

We should all remember that this damage cap only comes into play when an innocent patient is injured or killed by a doctor's error, hospital negligence or some other medical malpractice. It seems unfair that doctors are rewarded with a discount on insurance designed to protect them from their own mistakes.

Source: indianapublicmedia.org, "Will Indiana Raise Its Medical Malpractice Cap?" Brandon Smith, September 10, 2015

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