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Mind the Cap


How medical liability affecting both the price and the availability of health care around the state?

Last December, the Oregon Supreme Court found that employees of public agencies are not immune from negligence claims, effectively eliminating OHSU’s cap on malpractice claims. Today, a federal judge announced that the hospital is settling six medical malpractice cases for more than $38 million. Jordaan Clarke, whose family brought the successful challenge to OHSU’s old liability protection, will get $9.3 million.

These settlements come on the heels of a rare agreement between OHSU and the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association that they’ll send to the 2009 legislature as proposed changes to the Oregon Tort Claims Act.

Under the agreement, the per-claim malpractice limit would be set at $1.5 million in 2009 (increasing to $2 million by 2014). This is well below Jordaan Clarke’s $9.3 million, obviously, but well above the original cap of $200,000.

How do these caps — at $200,000, or $2 million, or the sky’s the limit — affect both the price and the availability of medical care around the state? And what’s the right balance between holding negligent health care workers responsible and keeping the cost of health care from skyrocketing?

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