New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s surprising push for tort reform came to an end Sunday night. The latest New York budget plan eliminates the proposed $250,000 “cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice awards” that would have saved the state an estimated $384 million. Cuomo, a Democrat, abandoned the plan even after he accepted the Medicaid Redesign Team’s proposal.
The setback leaves New York’s blundering Medicaid program unreformed and according to Mississippi Governor Hailey Barbour, no meaningful changes can be made to until someone in the Governor’s Mansion follows through on tort reform.
“The first rule [of tort reform],” Barbour told The Heritage Foundation last March, “is that you cannot pass real tort reform unless it is led by a governor.”
The need for tort reform is obvious: New Yorkers have felt the burden of soaring premiums and the loss of doctors from the state. Bill Hammond of the New York Daily News wrote presents a specific case: “It’s not unusual for New York ob-gyns to shell out more in premiums than they take home in pay – which is why dozens either quit delivering babies or flee the state whenever there’s another rate increase.”
Not enough, though, has been made of how tort reform, or stopping “lawsuit abuse” as Barbour prefers to call it, will keep jobs in New York and attract new business. Barbour related how in 2007, Toyota chose to build a Prius assembly plant in Mississippi and “said publicly they would not have chosen Mississippi if we had not passed tort reform.” Barbour’s experience is not an outlier– economist Lawrence McQuillan reported that there is “57 percent greater job growth in the tort reform states.”
While Cuomo’s 2% budget cuts are an admirable step towards fiscal sanity, he must remember that New York ranks 49th in tort reform liability. One of Cuomo’s first acts in office was to appoint a Medicaid Redesign Team and it would be a disservice to his constituents if he never returns to the issue of law suit abuse.
Matthew McKillip is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.