How a new law may affect New Mexico’s medical malpractice fund

How a new law may affect New Mexico’s medical malpractice fund

New Mexicans deserve competent medical care, professional bedside manners and accountability. Preoccupation and fatigue are no excuse for doctors who make critical errors. Those errors may amount to dereliction of duty.

Medical malpractice covers a multitude of substandard health care. From inappropriate treatment and misdiagnoses to prescribing the wrong medications or dismissing patient concerns, these physicians and providers can cause injury or death. State lawmakers are scrutinizing how clinics and hospitals are covered when patients successfully sue them for damages.

Spiking premiums, dwindling funds

The 1976 Medical Malpractice Act manages a patient compensation fund to help subsidize damages in malpractice verdicts, striking a balance between protecting caregivers and compensating patients. The state House recently passed a bill that would remove large corporate hospitals from the coverage and strengthen independent physicians’ protections.

The state fully funded it as recently as 2009. However, over the next decade, the deficit exploded to $56 million, and the compensation fund now risks becoming insolvent. Meanwhile, New Mexico doctors’ malpractice premiums have spiked 49% in five years and are much higher than surrounding states.

Proponents of the bill fear independent physicians will be unable to secure state coverage that larger hospitals can afford privately. Opponents worry that removing hospitals from the fund will not only bankrupt it but drive providers to relocate their business from the Land of Enchantment.

Errors and accountability

Medical errors claim more than 250,000 lives a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. They are the third-leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer. And compensation is on the rise. The top 50 malpractice awards averaged $22.9 million from 2016-19, a 50% increase since 2008.

Quality care can be a matter of life and death. Patients expect their medical professionals to explain why they are sick. To keep them healthy. And to make them OK again. When those professionals fail, disabling diseases can worsen. Unnecessary treatments can cause more pain and suffering.

You or a loved one may be able to recoup damages if medical errors occur. An experienced attorney who knows the evolving law in New Mexico can review your records to determine whether malpractice was involved.

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