By Tom Stebbins
Expansive and expensive new liabilities will undermine Gov. Kathy Hochul’s bold vision for the future of New York.
In her recent State of the State address, Hochul unveiled a number of important initiatives and funding priorities, including expanding access to mental healthcare, reproductive care, and childcare resources, increasing funding for IT and cybersecurity, and boosting wages for all New Yorkers. However, if she chooses to sign a bill passed by the legislature (S.74A) that dramatically expands liability, Governor Hochul’s vision for the future will be derailed.
New York already leads the nation in medical liability costs. Often, specialty care providers are hit the hardest. 79% of OBGYNs report being named in lawsuits, causing them to pay the second-highest insurance premiums in healthcare, deterring maternity and reproductive specialists from practicing in NY –leaving patients with fewer options and higher premiums. An actuarial analysis by Milliman, Inc. projects that enacting S.74A will increase medical liability insurance premiums by up to an astounding 40-45%.
The governor also committed to increased funding for mental healthcare, which is subject to speculative litigation regarding proper diagnosis and treatment. Profit-motivated trial attorneys take financial advantage of patients and their families, leading to a significant increase in liability insurance premiums and a lack of available providers. S.74A will throw open the legal floodgates and chase doctors to less hostile states, ensuring that some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers will lose access to essential care.
Personal injury litigation takes an unfair toll on taxpayers, too. Cities, counties, towns, and villages across the states are perceived as deep pockets and disproportionately sued when they have no legitimate connection to the underlying matter. On the local government front, Gov. Hochul announced significant increases in funding for modernized IT services and coordinated cybersecurity initiatives. But every taxpayer dollar spent on litigation takes away crucial funding for updating local IT services, protecting localities from online threats, as well as providing basic services like snow and trash removal and road and bridge maintenance.
Gov. Hochul promises an increase in wages for all New Yorkers, but is this realistic in such an expensive liability climate? The cost of inflated insurance premiums and payouts will have to be absorbed, often by consumers and local businesses. Healthcare facilities need patient aids, housekeeping assistants, and transportation providers. Suppressed wages, crumbling roads, and lack of access to crucial healthcare will only exacerbate the mass exodus and population decreases statewide.
If Gov. Hochul wants her vision for New York State’s future to become a reality, then she must veto S.74A and work with the legislature on a proposal that overhauls the Empire State’s burdensome liability climate before making matters worse.
Tom Stebbins is the executive director at the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.We are an association of businesses, healthcare providers, membership organizations, and concerned taxpayers committed to fixing New York’s civil justice system to help create jobs and energize the state’s economy.
Editor’s Note: The Op-Eds may or may not reflect the views of Harlem World Magazine.