The Kansas Supreme Court recently issued a ruling
Hilburn v. Enerpipe, LTD
that will impact physicians, hospitals, and ultimately Kansas patients. The Court ruled that the state laws limiting non-economic damages (i.e. damages for pain and suffering) in civil cases are now unconstitutional. The ruling was a surprise to the legal community and reverses the Court’s 2012 decision in Miller v. Johnson which upheld the cap’s constitutionality.
The Kansas Academy of Family Physicians (KAFP) condemns the potential effects of this ruling.
Eliminating the caps on pain and suffering will soon cause higher malpractice insurance rates. That will negatively impact virtually all family physicians, as members of the specialty perform many different services and procedures which would be affected by a rate increase. A malpractice increase would have an especially chilling effect upon those who offer obstetric services. Thirty-three percent of Kansas family physicians currently deliver babies, according to our recent Membership Satisfaction Survey. In rural Kansas that number is higher. In many communities family physicians are the only physicians who provide obstetric services. The health care provided by Kansas family physicians reaches out into every county of the state and into several counties in Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado. The premiums for offering OB services are already among the most expensive. Increasing malpractice premiums for OB care would undoubtedly cause many Kansas family physicians to rethink whether or not to offer that service. Their negative decision could leave entire communities without a delivering physician, thus worsening access to health care in rural Kansas.
In addition, increased insurance premiums would increase the overall cost of health care in Kansas for the health care system, which in turn will drive up health care costs already paid by Kansans.
KAFP believes this is a detrimental decision for all who use health services in Kansas, for our state’s family physicians, other health care professionals and for our hospitals. KAFP is working closely with the Kansas Medical Society and other concerned organizations to stem the potential domino effect of passing along the cost of health care to consumers and weakening the access to health care in Kansas.