Archives: February 2011

February 2011 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now Volume 6, Issue 2 FEBRUARY 2011 Newsletter E-Newsletter Special points of interest: Medical Liability Reform Passed by House Judiciary Committee Doctors on Defense State News, Briefly Editorial Chatter Medical Liability Reform Passed by House Judiciary Committee Earlier this month, the Judiciary Committee of the U.S House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, the HEALTH Act, by a vote of 18 to 15. This allows the bill to move on to the House Energy & Commerce Committee before reaching the floor for a vote. The HEALTH Act is based on proven medical liability reforms already in place in states such as California and Texas and places reasonable limits on non-economic damages. “Comprehensive medical liability reforms, like those included in the HEALTH Act, will help control costs and keep our health care system accessible for all patients,” said HCLA Chair Mike Stinson in a statement of support. This bill is familiar to Protect Patients Now supporters – it has passed the U.S. House of Representatives in four previous Congresses, but has often hit a stumbling block in the Senate. You can click here to visit our Contact Congress page to contact your Senators and Representatives via twitter, e-mail and phone asking…

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Medical liability reform: The time for action is now

A message to all physicians from Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, chair of the AMA Board of Trustees. In the past few weeks, a lot of people in Washington have been talking about medical liability issues. This is a good thing, and I hope it means we are about to see significant and meaningful reform in this important area. Because I, for one, am very tired of practicing defensive medicine and constantly looking over my shoulder when I should be concentrating on what is best for my patients. This situation is also creating a bad climate for American medicine and costing our patients and the country a lot of money that doesn’t need to be spent. On Jan. 20, I testified before the House Judiciary Committee in one of the first hearings of the new Congress. In my testimony, I encouraged Congress to move forward. On Jan. 24, the American Medical Association was among those who announced support for a newly introduced bill: the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act of 2011. The bipartisan bill includes what sponsors Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD (R, Ga.), Rep. David Scott (D, Ga.) and Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Lamar Smith (R, Texas) say will…

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House endorses bill giving sweeping protection to medical providers against malpractice lawsuit

HELENA — A bill creating sweeping protections for physicians and other medical providers against malpractice lawsuits won endorsement Tuesday from the Montana House. On a mostly party-line vote with Republicans in favor, the House voted 65-35 for House Bill 405, which says a medical provider is immune from liability if they have a “documented rationale” for omitting a level of care. That documentation is described in HB405 as a statement from the provider at the time of the “alleged error” that gives his or her reason for omitting a test, procedure or treatment. Rep. Janna Taylor, R-Dayton, and sponsor of the bill, said the measure doesn’t bar malpractice lawsuits but does provide protections that will help reduce the incidence and cost of “defensive medicine.” “Most doctors say they practice defensive medicine on every patient every day,” she said. “Do we want more doctors, especially in our rural areas? Do we want to lower the cost of medicine? … If so, I bring you” this bill. Taylor said her bill does not limit the awards for plaintiffs who succeed in showing that a physician or other provider committed malpractice. Opponents of the bill, however, said the change won’t necessarily reduce medical…

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Texas expands medical liability protections for state-employed doctors

Texas doctors employed by the state have gained an extra layer of protection against medical liability lawsuits after a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Texas. The majority of justices ruled that plaintiffs must sue the government entity where an alleged medical error occurred — not the physician. In the past, doctors employed at state-run facilities faced the same susceptibility in lawsuits as their private practice counterparts. The Jan. 21 ruling stems from several medical liability cases before the state Supreme Court concerning doctors employed by government entities and their scope of liability immunity. The court chose to examine one case as its lead to condense its review of the similar issues. In Franka and Reddy v. Velasquez, the parents of a newborn sued obstetrician-gynecologist John Franka, MD, and Nagakrishna Reddy, MD, for an injury to the baby’s shoulder during delivery, according to court documents. The parents did not sue University Hospital, where the baby was born. University is a public teaching hospital owned by the Bexar County Hospital District. Dr. Franka was a faculty member at the hospital, and Dr. Ready was a resident at the time of the delivery. Drs. Franka and Reddy said they should not…

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Obama, GOP should avoid a standoff on malpractice reform

PRESIDENT OBAMA announced in his State of the Union speech that he would deal with Republicans on one of their pet issues, reform of medical malpractice. But nothing is likely to get done because congressional Democrats oppose the GOP’s trademark solution to high liability costs — a federal law capping damages that malpractice victims can receive. They are right that a cap is too arbitrary, limiting awards even for the most egregious mistakes. But the debate shouldn’t end there. Both parties should find common ground on innovative approaches that not only reduce jury awards but also help doctors and hospitals correct underlying problems. Those approaches — now being tested in more than 20 locations — start with the recognition that the current system has several flaws. The most obvious is that the threat of frivolous lawsuits drives up doctors’ insurance costs, which get passed on to patients. Fear of suits also causes doctors to practice “defensive medicine,’’ ordering unnecessary tests just to prove that they covered all the bases. Meanwhile, the current system fails to provide any relief to many patients who suffer from medical mistakes but are never informed of them or cannot find lawyers to represent them. Finally,…

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Is malpractice reform good for patients?

The medical malpractice reform bill Sens. Harry Brown, Tom Apodaca and I have introduced in the state Senate will drive down your health care costs and lure some of the country’s brightest doctors to North Carolina. It will give doctors a desperately needed safeguard against unpredictable and unfair lawsuits that drive insurance costs sky high. That security will lower insurance premiums, making health care more affordable. It will make health care more accessible for those who can’t afford it. And it will end the excessive awards lawyers win for “pain and suffering,” and other damages that can’t be measured. That’s why we’re joining more than 25 other states that have passed similar laws to increase access to health care by reducing the number of frivolous lawsuits. Our bill – Senate Bill 33 – has support from Republicans and Democrats. Patients still can recover all medical costs and lost earnings, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars for pain and suffering and other “noneconomic damages” under our bill. Yet trial lawyers, other interest groups and the politicians they influence most are balking at reform. Fewer lawsuits and lower jury awards will mean less money in trial lawyers’ pockets. But it will mean…

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Study: Doctors order tests out of fear of lawsuits

SAN DIEGO (AP) — CT scans, MRIs and other pricey imaging tests are often more for the doctor’s benefit than the patient’s, new research confirms. Roughly one-fifth of tests that bone and joint specialists order are because a doctor fears being sued, not because the patient needs them, a first-of-its-kind study in Pennsylvania suggests. The study comes a day after President Barack Obama began a push to overhaul state medical malpractice laws as a way to reduce unnecessary tests that drive up health care costs. “This study is a glimpse behind the curtain of what’s happening in a doctor’s mind,” said its leader, Dr. John Flynn of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. If doctors sense you might second-guess them or cause trouble, “you could potentially be risking more tests being done.” Results were reported Wednesday at an American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons conference in California. Patients expect the highest level of care and think this means the most advanced technology, Flynn said. Many patients feel better when a doctor orders lots of tests — until they get the bill. Besides hurting your wallet and adding to health care costs, unnecessary tests can expose people to radiation that accumulates over a lifetime…

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Gingrey, Smith, Scott Call on President to Support Medical Liability Reform

Washington – Senior Health Subcommittee Member Phil Gingrey, M.D. (R-Ga.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), and Congressman David Scott (D-Ga.) today introduced The HEALTH Act (H.R. 5), a bill that includes meaningful medical liability reforms to lower the cost of health care while strengthening the doctor-patient relationship. In introducing the bill, the members urged President Obama to consider medical malpractice reforms that have proved effective in reducing health care costs while maintaining a high quality of care. President Obama has previously said that he wants to work to “scale back the excessive defensive medicine … and shift to a system where we are providing better care, simply – rather than simply more treatment.” Congressman Gingrey: “The HEALTH Act’s proven reforms will make medical malpractice insurance affordable again, encourage health care practitioners to maintain their practices, reduce health care costs for patients, and save billions of dollars a year in federal taxpayer dollars by reducing the need for ‘defensive medicine.’ It is an effective way to stop wasteful spending within our health care system, while ensuring better outcomes for patients.” “As Co-Chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus and with over 30 years of experience as a physician, I know…

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GOP introduces medical liability bill to complement healthcare efforts

Key House Republicans last night introduced the HEALTH Act, which aims to lower the cost of healthcare through medical liability reform. The bill is designated as H.R. 5, which indicates it is a high priority for House Republicans. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health; House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas); and Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.). In a statement Monday, the three members said medical malpractice reforms have proven effective in reducing healthcare costs, and noted that President Obama has said he wants to find ways to help minimize defensive medical practices, such as over-treatment designed more to avoid possible legal action. Among other things, the bill would limit the number of years a plaintiff has to file a legal claim against medical practitioners and ensure that doctors are only liable for the portion of a procedure for which they are at fault. The latter provision would limit the ability of a plaintiff’s lawyers to seek “deep pockets” in a legal challenge. The bill also ensures that more monetary awards would go to patients, not patients’ lawyers, puts “reasonable limits” on punitive damages and allows states…

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