Failure to Communicate Is Costly and Dangerous; More

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

February 16, 2016

In This Article

Would a Higher Med-Mal Cap Keep the Concept Alive?

A bill that would have raised Indiana's $1.25 million medical malpractice cap died a quiet death late last month, according to a story on the website of WFYI, the Indianapolis-based public radio, TV, and news station.[2]

Almost to the end, the bill's chief sponsor, GOP State Senator Brent Steele, was hopeful that ongoing discussions between hospitals, doctors, and trial lawyers would result in a workable agreement. But when the parties to the talks got a glimpse of an actual proposal draft, they had second thoughts. "You and I can both be sitting at a table, and I'm saying something and you're saying something, and we think we're on the same page until you see it in black and white and...say, ‘Well, that's really not what I thought it was,'" says Steele, who has vowed to introduce his bill again in the next session.

Why is a Republican lawmaker pushing so hard to raise his state's med-mal cap? The apparent answer: because it hasn't been raised in 17 years. But there's also widespread belief that the proposed hike is part of a wider GOP strategy to make the 1999 law less susceptible to a constitutional challenge by those who think it's unfair.[3]

Had it passed, Steele's bill would have raised the award for an injury or wrongful death by $400,000, to $1.65 million, with future increases tied to the Consumer Price Index (ie, inflation). It would have also introduced two other significant changes: First, it would have increased—from $250,000 to $450,000—that part of the $1.65 million total award payable by the provider. (A state fund would be responsible for the remaining payout.) And second, it would have raised the amount a plaintiff could seek to recover without first going through the state's mandated medical review panel.

After discussions broke down, Steele refused to point fingers, but historically the Indiana State Medical Association has argued that raising the state's cap would inevitably drive up costs for its members.

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