The Georgia legislature passed a bill, effective February 16, 2005, which capped noneconomic damages in all medical malpractice cases. The stated legislative intent of the damage cap was twofold: 1) improving the quality of medical care in Georgia; and 2) increasing the number of physicians in Georgia.
After four years, what has been the practical effect of the cap? 1) The bill certainly has not improved the quality of medical care provided to Georgians. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Dept. of HHS, the quality of medical care in Georgia has declined since 2005. While there are numerous reasons for the decline in the quality of medical care provided to Georgians over the past four years, Georgia legislators now know what every healthcare advocate has known for the past three decades, preventing full accountability under the law reduces the deterrent of liability law. 2) Prior to the February of 2005, physicians licensed in Georgia increased by 7.79% in 2003 and by 5.89% in 2004. After the malpractice damages caps were passed, physicians licensed in Georgia increased by 4.96% in 2005, 6.69% in 2006, 5.91% in 2007, and 5.78% in 2008. The medical malpractice damage caps have had no effect on the number of physicians licensed in Georgia.