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Indiana House approves increase to medical malpractice damage cap

The Indiana legislature is again considering changes to the state's medical malpractice damage cap. A bill has cleared the House and now moves to a conference committee, and then to the Senate, if the committee can reach an agreement.

An earlier bill died in the house back in January, and the revived matter would increase the dollar amount of the damage cap from its current level of $1.25 million to $1.65 in 2017 and then $1.8 million in 2019. When the bill left the committee, it would have provided for automatic increases every four years until it reached $2.25 million in 2031, but the House removed those later increases.

The lobbyist for Indiana doctors noted the organization wanted to set the cap at $1.65 million. Because the bill is expected to go to a House-Senate conference committee before the Senate will vote on it, further changes are possible.

While if passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, it would increase the dollar value of a claim that would be allowed, to speak of it as an "increase" is not entirely accurate. Because of inflation, for victims of medical malpractice in the state, it would really only bring a return to the status quo of original 1997 legislation.

You can see the adjustment that is necessary by using the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI inflation calculator site, which quickly calculates that you would need $1.85 million in 2016 dollars for it to be the equivalent of the 1997 value of $1.25 million.

Even with the "increase," negligent doctors would still be paying less in medical malpractice costs, since in 2019 when the current final increase is in place, would still be $50,000 less than the cap should be in 2016.

It is remarkable that there is seemingly more concern regarding how this could potentially affect the future cost of medical malpractice insurance for doctors in Indiana, than to the actual harm those injured by medical malpractice are currently suffering because of the erosion of the damage cap.

Source: insurancejournal.com, "Measure Increasing Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Cap Moves Forward," Aric Chokey, March 2, 2016

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