Legislation Would Pose Threat to State’s Healthcare System

Opinion Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

We are part of The Trust Project

The New York State Legislature has again passed legislation (A.6698/S.6636) that would exponentially expand damages in wrongful death lawsuits. This bill is nearly identical to the one that was thankfully vetoed by Gov. Hochul last January. The governor must veto this new version as well.
We have great sympathy for the grieving families this legislation seeks to help. However, any legislation to expand costly lawsuits must be balanced against the enormous adverse impact this bill would have on our healthcare system. If this bill is signed into law, it would make it more difficult for our struggling community hospitals and physicians to continue to provide needed patient care in critically underserved areas.
Proponents claim the new bill responds to the governor’s concerns. It most surely 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 percent escalation in liability costs, which would be on top of the already unaffordable costs our physicians and hospitals face.
Studies from Diederich Healthcare show that from 2019 to 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 second and third highest states, Florida and Pennsylvania, respectively. New York also had the highest per capita liability payment, six times that of California. These costs far exceed states like California and Texas, with whom New York competes to retain and attract needed specialty care physicians.
In the state budget, significant steps were taken to address the stability of our various community healthcare providers, particularly those providing needed care in our undeserved areas. Yet by imposing unsustainable new costs this legislation would undermine the positive steps in the state budget to protect access to care of our most vulnerable population.
Our regional healthcare safety net is already under significant duress even without having to absorb the extraordinary costs this bill would require. We urge the governor to veto this new legislation and work with the legislature to adopt truly balanced legislation that expands the rights of grieving families while protecting our healthcare safety net and quality access to care.

Peter Acker, MD, President, Westchester County Medical Society
Kham Ali, MD, President-elect, Westchester County Medical Society
Anaïs Carniciu, MD, Vice President, Westchester County Medical Society
Thomas Lee, MD, Treasurer, Westchester County Medical Society
Tobi Klar, MD, Secretary, Westchester County Medical Society
Daniel Gold, MD, 9th District Councilor Medical Society State of New York

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.