July 24, 2002

Tuesday, April 9, 2002


The Malpractice Mess
Nevada doctors saw premiums rise by 35 percent last year. Ohio and Kentucky saw 20 percent increases. Some doctors now pay $100,000 or more per year for coverage. One reason is that the biggest malpractice underwriter was pulling out.

When the St. Paul Insurance Company announced last December it would quit selling medical malpractice policies to improve profitability, it wasn’t too long before states started to see the fallout. Stateline.org says: “St. Paul was the biggest medical malpractice insurer in the nation, covering tens of thousands of doctors. But few people could blame it for getting out of the business, which in 2001 caused a $940 million loss. Malpractice coverage has become an expensive risk because disgruntled patients now regularly file multimillion dollars lawsuits. Jury awards increased 43 percent in one year, from a median of $700,000 in 1999 to $1 million in 2000, says Jury Verdict Research, a for-profit company that maintains a database of nearly 200,000 verdicts and settlements resulting from personal injury claims. America’s litigious atmosphere has driven up the cost of all insurance. Insuring a car costs an average of about $1,000 a year. But surgeons in Florida pay up to $126,599 for malpractice insurance, and Texas obstetricians may shell out $160,746, reports Medical Liability Monitor.

• Talk to doctors and lawyers to learn how the suits hurt doctors and why lawyers say the verdicts are so high. Lawmakers say they are feeling pressure to pass legislation that limits claims for “pain and suffering” and legal fees.



Tax Software is Hot
Roger McCoy, WBNS-TV Columbus, Ohio tells Morning Meeting, “Thought this might be timely and interesting. More people are using tax software and the IRS loves it. This year, an estimated 5.3 million Americans will give it a try in addition to the 22 million tax professionals who will e-file on behalf of their clients. ‘It’s easy. You just fill out the questions,’ says Scott Coleman, a sales associate at the Staples store at Lennox Town Center. ‘You type in the answers. Basically it does most of your calculations.’ In Pickerington, Joel Losego has a wife, two kids, a new house and a home office to figure into this year’s income taxes. Losego could spend hundreds of dollars using an accountant to prepare his taxes. Instead, Losego uses tax software that costs $20. ‘In about an hour to an hour and a half I can run two or three tax scenarios through it, (tax software) do an audit check, file electronically and be done with it,’ says Losego.”



To Be Young and Homeless
I pulled this from the CJC Weekly summary of children’s issues. Check with your local shelters, find out how many children came through their facilities this winter. Here is what The New York Times Magazine found: “More than 13,000 children have slept in New York City’s homeless shelters and temporary apartments this winter — the youngest members of troubled families too cash-strapped to afford permanent homes. In an era regarded as generally prosperous, the numbers are staggering: between 900,000 and 1.4 million children in America are homeless for a time in a given year, comprising 40 percent of the nation’s homeless population. Most of them are homeless only once, and for months, not years. A primary contributing factor is the lack of affordable housing for extremely-low-income families. Meanwhile, as cities move homeless families from one temporary shelter to another, homelessness becomes the defining fact of the children’s lives. And there is evidence that homeless children have more health problems, more hospitalizations and more developmental problems than poor children who have never been homeless.”


Contact:
Ellen L. Bassuk, associate professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and coauthor of a federally supported study of homeless families;
Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst, Coalition for the Homeless.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
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