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Protecting affordable & quality care

Medical liability caps were created in 1988 as part of the Colorado Health Care Availability Act (HCAA) to govern medical malpractice litigation.

Reasonable medical liability caps protect patients and the medical community from unaffordable health care costs.

Without a stable medical liability system, insurance becomes unaffordable for medical professionals, particularly specialists and those who work in high-risk practices of medicine, in addition to providers in inner cities and rural communities where medical professionals are scarce and operate on narrow margins.

In turn, this drives providers out of practice or out of the state, reducing care options for Coloradans and leading to higher out-of-pocket medical costs passed on to consumers. Removing caps would also result in many medical professionals opting out of higher risk procedures, which would detrimentally affect access to lifesaving treatments conducted by specialists like OBGYNs.

Liability Caps Protect Patients and Providers

There are currently two types of medical liability awards that compensation is derived from in Colorado – economic damages and non-economic damages (NED). NED, which are capped at a certain amount, include intangible losses like reduced quality of life, pain, suffering and emotional trauma. Economic damages, which are generally not capped, include past and future medical expenses, loss of earnings, etc.

Eliminating non-economic damage caps would likely lead to:

  • Higher medical costs for patients.
  • The loss of providers practicing in our state, especially those working in specialty and high-risk services like obstetrics.
  • Reduced access to health care for Coloradans, particularly those in rural and underserved areas.
  • Increased practice of defensive medicine like ordering scans and tests, and overly meticulous charting to ensure needed documentation in the case of an adverse outcome.
  • Increased wait times for patients.
  • Greater distances traveled to reach providers.
  • Reduced time providers spend with patients.
  • Astronomical and unpredictable jury awards, and more frivolous lawsuits, that would make liability insurance unaffordable for providers.

By the Numbers

  • Rural areas in Colorado have 30% fewer physicians, 24% fewer nurses and physician assistants, and 61% fewer psychologists compared with urban areas.
  • Colorado physicians say that medical liability remains a top concern, especially in obstetrics, neurology and psychiatry.
  • States with reasonable medical liability damage caps saw an increased number of practicing physicians – from 3% to as much as 12% – which increased access to care and lowered costs.
  • 90% of doctors reported fear of lawsuits, saying high-liability awards will drive up costs because they would be forced to become defensive in how they practice medicine.
  • The average physician spends almost 11% of a 40-year career defending themselves against an allegation.
  • 64% of closed medical liability claims were either dropped, withdrawn, dismissed or otherwise considered frivolous.

*All points attributed to Keystone Policy Center and Colorado Health Institute 2018 Reports

Legal Advocacy Efforts

As part of our advocacy efforts, we work to create a supportive legal landscape with smart liability protections. This includes researching and filing amicus briefs to encourage an environment in which health care professionals can safely practice medicine and patients are assured quality care. We also track pending cases that could impact the delivery of health care in Colorado, particularly primary and specialty care under the established state Health Care Availability Act (HCAA).

Legislative Advocacy Efforts

We also work to advance policy changes at the state level that ensure common sense liability laws support our Colorado communities. In 2022, we worked to pass bipartisan SB-115, a broadly supported bill which maintained essential protections in the Colorado Premises Liability Act (CPLA).

Help us ensure a stable medical liability climate in Colorado.