A poor prescription

Some folks in Colorado are once again hoping to change a critical part of the state’s 20-year-old reform of medical malpractice laws by significantly increasing the caps on one form of awards in medical malpractice cases, then raising those caps with inflation in the future.

But those efforts, through House Bill 1344, will likely drive up the cost of medical insurance, force some doctors and other medical providers to stop performing certain medical procedures and make health care harder to obtain, especially in rural areas.

No wonder the Colorado Medical Society and a host of other groups are opposed to the bill.

The bill was introduced at a time when both the state and federal governments are trying to expand access to health care. And it is a time when Colorado is facing the most severe economic crisis in recent decades, forcing hundreds of millions in state budget cuts.

Meanwhile, many families are facing their own budget problems, due to job cuts and credit problems. It is no time to pass legislation that could add to medical costs.

Even without the current financial crisis, however, we would oppose HB 1344. The bill seeks to impose an inflationary increase on non-economic damages in medical malpractice awards based on inflation over the past 21 years. Then it would increase the cap every year based on the rate of inflation, thereby guaranteeing that medical malpractice costs continue to rise.

For 20 years, those caps have helped keep medical malpractice insurance in Colorado relatively affordable and made this state much more welcoming for physicians than many other states.

Anything that threatens to undo those changes is the wrong prescription for the state and should be rejected.


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