A legislative panel is studying ways to lower medical malpractice insurance rates in Iowa. Senator Keith Kreiman, a Democrat from Bloomfield, says one of their ideas is an “I’m Sorry Law,” to shield doctors from having an apology used against them in court. He says it’d provide a way for doctors to say “I’m sorry” to a patient when they’ve made an error or omission, without having to worry that apology will end up in court.
Iowa doctors often find themselves paying higher malpractice insurance rates than doctors do in neighboring states. Minnesota doctors, for example, pay half as much for malpractice insurance as Iowa doctors pay. Kreiman says it’s because Iowa doctors face more malpractice claims. Claims filed in Iowa are also “more severe,” he says, than those filed in Minnesota, and Kreiman wants to know why.
Most Republicans argue one way to lower those rates is to put caps on the amount of pain and suffering damages injured patients can win in a lawsuit, but most Democrats oppose such a move. Kreiman says limiting damage suits wouldn’t affect doctors’ insurance rates. Kreiman says caps have “absolutely no effect” on high malpractice rates. He says a provider told them in the hearing that the cost is affected by the number of claims filed, and how high they are.
But Senator Bob Brunkhorst, a Republican from Waverly, says with an even number of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, lawmakers are trying to come up with ideas that can win the backing of both Republicans and Democrats. Brunkhorst says he hopes the “I’m Sorry” legislation will create a better culture in which doctors and patients can communicate about any problems and make sure they’re corrected a little sooner.
Brunkhorst favors capping lawsuit damages. Brunkhorst says a majority of states have caps and “they seem to work.” He says they’re different “flavors” but they have led to decreases in malpractice rates, adding, “Some of us believe that and some of us don’t.” Kreiman, the Democrat, says lawmakers want to compile more information from doctors and hospitals about medical errors and collect data about malpractice claims from insurance companies. A panel of legislators studying the problem of medical malpractice insurance met Tuesday in Des Moines.