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March 21, 2011  

Public Citizen to Gov. Andrew Cuomo: Reject Budgetary Measure That Would Severely Limit Patients’ Rights

Proposal 131 Would Harm Malpractice Victims, Shield Doctors and Hospitals, Public Citizen Tells N.Y. Governor

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen today sent a letter and petition with more than 1,600 signatures from its New York members and supporters to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders opposing a budgetary measure that would limit the rights of patients injured by medical negligence.

The Medicaid Redesign Team Proposal 131, recommended by a governor-appointed panel to cut the state’s Medicaid costs and accepted by Cuomo as part of his budget, would impose a one-size-fits-all $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice awards and establish a payment fund for neurologically impaired infants.

“Both these proposals are arbitrary and inhumane,” said Christine Hines, Public Citizen’s consumer and civil justice counsel, “but most significantly, they would take away New Yorkers’ legal rights and shield doctors and hospitals from liability for negligent medical errors that injure and kill patients.”

The governor’s stated intention to reduce Medicaid costs would be nullified by Proposal 131 because it would shift the costs of caring for injured patients from the negligent doctors and hospitals to Medicaid and other taxpayer-funded programs, thereby increasing – not decreasing – costs to the state, Hines said.

 The proposal also is being considered at a time when the number of malpractice payments is at a record low in New York, according to the latest data from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).

Additionally, a recent Public Citizen analysis found that the New York state medical board was not adequately dealing with doctors, many of whom posed a danger to patients. About 50 percent of physicians in New York (400 doctors) that have been disciplined by hospitals where they work had no New York licensure board action taken against them.

Instead of giving bad medical providers immunity from liability, Public Citizen calls on New York’s leaders to prioritize patient safety in the state’s budget. Empirical research shows that reducing medical errors to improve patient safety will in turn reduce costs.

Read the letter sent to Gov. Cuomo and lawmakers.  

Read the petition.

Read Public Citizen’s analysis of state medical board actions.

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