VA BIRTH INJURY SYSTEM
Yes, Doctors make mistakes. So many mistakes are made during child birth, that Virginia has a seperate system defining how one would seek compensation for mistakes made by a physician, during the birth of a child. The Virginia Birth Injury act, was established so OBGYNs wouldn’t go out of business with extreme insurance premiums or malpractice cases… but now, the unique pay in system, may be out of money.
“Twice in the past two months, Cathy Pell drove from Manassas to the state capital to lobby lawmakers to continue giving her the money she needs to care for Abby, the youngest of her five children.
Abby, a giggly, dark-haired 3-year-old, was deprived of oxygen at birth. She can’t talk or eat solid food, and she has trouble seeing and walking. Her parents enrolled her in a little-known state program that pays her medical expenses for life if they agree not to sue the doctors or hospital for malpractice.
But the Virginia birth injury program, the first of its kind in the nation, is running out of money, and the state is scrambling for a way to raise millions of dollars for more than 100 disabled children. A proposal to bolster funding for the program cleared the General Assembly last week after a contentious and emotional debate that took place largely behind closed doors. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) signed the bill into law yesterday.
“I was worried benefits would be taken away,” said Pell, 40, a stay-at-home mother. “The whole thing was just to protect my child’s future. We’ve been awarded something. Don’t take it away.”
For years, lawmakers have struggled with the issue of where to get money for the program as it has become obvious that children with serious brain injuries are living longer than doctors could have predicted when the program was created two decades ago.
Lawmakers have considered a variety of solutions, including cutting benefits to families and closing the program to additional children. But these proposals were quickly dismissed after angry families met with doctors, hospital officials and insurance companies.
“We can’t abandon them,” said Del. Harvey B. Morgan (R-Gloucester), who introduced one of this year’s bills. “They are far better off being in this program.”
Bills that won House and Senate approval with bipartisan support will increase fees paid by doctors who deliver babies in Virginia and by the hospitals where they are born, raising about $750,000 a year. The additional money will extend the life of the program but will not come close to solving its problems.
“The bills are a good step in the right direction,” said Katharine Webb, senior vice president of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. “But at some point, we have to come back.”
The Virginia Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Program was designed in the late 1980s during a statewide malpractice crisis. Obstetricians had difficulty obtaining insurance. Lawsuits were plentiful. Insurance costs soared.
In the 1970s, the legislature capped awards in medical malpractice lawsuits at $1 million. The cap has slowly increased because of inflation and will reach $2 million this year. “
I think most doctors like the system – and pay into it – so I wonder what their efforts will be in the future?