By O. Kay Henderson (Radio Iowa)
A state law is now effect to limit medical malpractice claims for non-economic or so-called “pain and suffering” damages. Governor Kim Reynolds was surrounded by a large crowd yesterday as she held a bill signing ceremony in her statehouse office.
“Because of our efforts and that includes everyone in this room — legislators and health care providers, lots of people pulling together to get this across the finish line — we’re in a much better position to recruit and retain physicians in our communities and really preserve access to care for rural Iowans,” she said.
The law took effect as soon as the governor signed it. There is no limit on coverage for medical expenses or economic losses caused by medical errors, but pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases are now capped at $2 million for hospitals and $1 million for all other health care providers. Starting in 2028, those caps will increase by an annual inflation factor of 2.1%.
“When mistakes happen, Iowans deserve compensation, but arbitrary multimillion dollar awards do more than that. They act as a tax on all Iowans by raising the cost of care,” Reynolds said, “They drive medical clinics out of business and medical students out of state.”
Former Governor Terry Branstad started pushing for medical malpractice caps more than a decade ago. Reynolds made it one of her priority issues for the 2023 Iowa Legislature. “Iowa finally joins the majority of U.S. states in enacting common sense medical malpractice reform by placing a reasonable cap on non-economic damages,” Reynolds said.
Kevin Kincaid, the CEO of Knoxville Hospitals and Clinics, said the law has been a priority for hospitals. “To recruit the best and brightest, to keep these providers in Iowa, we need to have a stable practice environment,” Kincaid said. “This bill is a crucial step forward in helping Iowa to be a more attractive place to practice medicine.”
All but one Democrat and 16 Republicans in the legislature voted against the law, arguing it was unfair to place a dollar value on when a person’s life is dramatically changed or ended due to a medical error. House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst said there’s no evidence the health care workforce issues Iowa faces are any better in states with medical malpractice caps. “Our frustration that is was a one size fits all approach,” Konfrst told reporters during her weekly news conference. “…Iowa patients are the true losers here.”
Konfrst said the caps benefit the insurance industry, with no guarantee medical malpractice insurance rates for doctors and hospitals will be controlled.