Change in Store for Medical Malpractice?

Florida lawmakers spent months in special session crafting a medical malpractice insurance reform designed to lower rates and keep doctors practicing, but new information out Monday called the presumed factor suggests malpractice rates will keep going up, but not as fast.

Doctor's can expect to save 5.3 percent on their malpractice insurance claims as a result of capping non-economic damages. They are also expected to save another 2.5 percent from changes in the bad faith law. The State Department of Insurance doesn't believe doctors will actually see lower rates though, at least for now.

The new estimate is called the presumed factor. All insurance companies must use it in calculating their malpractice rates. It will mean different things to different medical specialties, but few doctors are happy.

"I am very pessimistic about the outcome of this in terms of premiums and in terms of afford ability Doctors just can't afford it,” says Dr. Terry McCoy.

Doctors said during the debate that this compromise would do nothing for medical malpractice rates, but the doctors have been moving ahead with several constitutional amendments. One of the doctor's proposed amendments would limit damage awards constitutionally, another would cap trial lawyers’ legal fees. The lawyers are fighting back with amendments of their own, but the trial bar says in the end, lawmakers missed the boat by not reforming insurance practices.

"The end result to follows this is that victims in this state that have legitimate cases are going to have caps imposed upon them and doctors are going to get no relief," says Tom Evans.

Without significant savings for doctors the law is open to a constitutional challenge because it takes away rights without giving something back. The malpractice bill that was approved by state lawmakers this year contained more than 80 different sections. Only two of those provisions are expected to produce any savings for doctors.