Over one year ago, the Illinois legislature passed a law restricting the ability of medical malpractice victims to hold hospitals and health care workers accountable for negligence. Although limiting what a victim can seek from a negligent health care worker or hospital is clearly unfair, politicians argued that it would lower Illinois doctors’ insurance premiums.
They were wrong. The law has done nothing to decrease premiums for doctors. In fact, insurance industry premiums continue to rise!
According to Illinois’ largest medical insurer itself, it will pay out 20% less from 2005 claims than 2004 claims despite the fact that its income increased significantly (from $11.5 to $23.6 million).
Let’s review the winners and losers from the enactment of this law:
1. Insurance companies: Illinois’ largest medical insurer’s income has greatly increased from $11.5 to $23.6 million.
2. Illinois physicians: Insurance rates have increased.
3. Illinois citizens: Have lost their right to full compensation determined by a jury and their right to hold doctors and hospitals fully accountable for their medical malpractice.
It is clear that insurance companies continue to gain from enactments of malpractice caps.
Looking to other states, we can see that Illinois is not the only state seeing that damages caps do not work. Malpractice premiums in states with caps on noneconomic damages are 12.4 percent higher than in states without caps! In fact, in the five states that most recently enacted caps, insurance premiums rose at nearly double the rate as those that did pass damage caps.