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Letter: NY corruption and malpractice costs

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) on

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) on Feb. 10, 2014, in Albany. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

We felt compelled to write after reading "New charges of corruption" [News, July 22], about Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) allegedly extorting a malpractice insurer to hire his son in return for favorable legislation.

As physicians practicing in Nassau County, we have been insured by that company, Physicians' Reciprocal Insurers, for medical malpractice for many years. For most of that time, we paid ever-increasing and often unconscionably high premiums.

The reasons for the increases were always based on "loss," "severity" or other insurance industry euphemisms indicating that doctors were being sued for malpractice in record numbers, and that jury verdicts and settlements were so out-of-control that the company's very existence depended on physicians paying. Sometimes the premiums amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Rate increases were endorsed by the state insurance department, while the State Legislature would not allow tort reform.

However, it has been common knowledge for years that about 80 percent of the medical malpractice cases filed end in a favorable decision for the doctor -- the defendant. Further, even when outsized jury awards occur, they are usually knocked down to policy limits on appeal. Even better, most large awards are structured so that payouts occur over long periods.

So, why are premiums so high that New York State physicians are, in so many cases, leaving private practice, moving to other states, or retiring prematurely?

The article answers the question nicely. We doctors have been working not just to support our families but also to support Adam Skelos.

Dr. Burton J. Glass

Dr. Peter A. Salzer


Editor's note: The writers are with Long Island Hyperbaric and Wound Care Medical Associates.