If a surgical medical mistake meets the criteria for medical malpractice, up until recently at least, insurance companies for New York City hospitals could be liable to pay for victims’ injuries and losses in the form of a jury verdict or settlement.
What happens, however, when insurance companies are not involved? Several New York City hospitals are forgoing medical malpractice coverage as a way, they claim, of cutting costs.
In lieu of carrying malpractice insurance, some hospitals have set aside money to cover their liabilities. These hospitals call themselves “self insured.” But there is no guarantee that these hospitals will have sufficient funds to cover the expenses associated with a devastating injury.
There is no central record of which hospitals have insurance and which do not. Three years ago, a survey by the state health department identified three hospitals that were entirely self-insured. Another 12 hospitals are classified as partially self-insured.
It is also an issue of concern that hospitals have no obligation to inform a patient of whether or not they have malpractice insurance. Sooner or later, every hospital commits malpractice in some form or another. Patients understandably want to know if they are being treated at a hospital that is willing to accept responsibility for their actions in the event of an injury caused by a medical mistake.
A patient’s ability to recover compensation for injury would be compromised if a hospital claimed to be self-insured, but were actually deeply in debt. As the old saying goes, it isn’t possible to get blood from a stone.