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Doctors Want No-Fault System for No Accountability

Santa Monica, CA. -- A Beverly Hills physician exposed the failure of a California law that caps innocent malpractice victims' recovery in a New York Times opinion-editorial published today, according to the non-profit, non-partisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). The Bush administration is pushing to enact caps modeled after California's at the federal level. In the piece, Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Lloyd M. Krieger notes that his medical malpractice insurance premiums continue to rise, despite his never having been sued for malpractice, belying the argument that California's caps on pain and suffering awards reduce premiums. Krieger calls for national legal restrictions on injured patients as "a start" but wants to go even further by getting away from "rewarding victims" and moving toward a no-fault system of malpractice with peer review of doctors in lieu of legal accountability.

"Punishing victims for insurers' price-gouging is a slippery slope that will lead, if the insurance companies have their way, to a no-fault medical malpractice system," said FTCR consumer advocate Carmen Balber. "Self-regulation through a peer review system and no justice for victims will mean no accountability for doctors at all."

The model for the Bush administration's proposal is the California Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) passed in 1976. However, studies have shown that MICRA did not reduce insurance premiums for doctors. Premiums did not drop until after the passage of Proposition 103 by California voters in 1988, which allowed for stronger regulation of the insurance industry.

"Krieger's argument is further proof that it is greedy insurance companies and bad doctoring, not compensation for injured patients, that are at the root of skyrocketing malpractice premiums," said Balber. "Federal caps will serve to deny justice to malpractice victims and leave hospitals unaccountable, while doing nothing to address the rising premiums that are at the root of physician complaints."