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After Much Ado, New York Drops Med Mal Cap Proposal from Budget

New York State's proposal to cap medical malpractice awards in an attempt to revamp its Medicaid program has been dropped. The proposal was noticeably missing in the state budget, which was agreed to by Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Dan Skelos, as reported by the Syracuse Post Standard. The proposal would have placed a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering awards and set up a state fund for infants born with brain damage.

The proposal was part of Governor Cuomo's design to reduce New York State's expected $18 million Medicaid program. Health care providers would receive lowered payments from the state for treatment of Medicaid patients. The tradeoff for this was supposed to reduce malpractice premiums for doctors and hospitals due to the proposed cap on pain and suffering awards. New York at present does not have any caps on medical malpractice awards.

Bill Opposed by Patient Care Advocates and Trial Lawyers

Although health care providers strongly supported the bill, it was opposed by patient care advocates and trial lawyers. The proposed measure also pitted Governor Cuomo against Assembly Speaker Silver, who has been a staunch opponent of any attempt to cap malpractice awards in the Empire State in the past. At one point, rumors of a government shutdown if the bill was not passed were being floated in the media. Yet the cap was eventually dropped due to objections in the State Assembly, headed by Silver. "There was some disagreement on the effect of the cap," Cuomo stated, according to the Albany Times Union, after the budget agreement was reached. The fund for neurologically impaired infants did pass. Lawmakers have not yet decided where the money for the fund will come from. The budget also included a $15 billion cap on state Medicaid payments, which is a reduction of $2.5 billion.

Patient advocates and the state's trial attorneys are no doubt pleased by the result; yet they remain wary of future attempts to force a malpractice cap through the legislature. Hospitals and doctors will be receiving $2.5 billion less in Medicaid payments under the new state budget. Their continued demands for a cap on malpractice awards are not likely to become any less strident in the future.