Archives: September 2012

September 2012 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now Volume 7, Issue 9 September 2012 Newsletter E-Newsletter Special points of interest: A Toast to Texas’ Reforms Alternative Liability “Reforms” Under Consideration A Toast to Texas’ Reforms There is no shortage of good news stemming from the landmark medical liability reforms in Texas, and as we approach the nine-year anniversary of the bill’s passage, Protect Patients Now wanted to highlight the advances that have led to an increase in physicians and a decrease in health care costs. Landmark Liability Reforms Upheld This month, a Texas appeals court upheld the constitutionality of the reforms, following an affirmation in March by a federal court of appeals. As reported in American Medical News, the ruling strengthens Texas’ 2003 tort reform package and protects doctors from high insurance premiums, said Rocky Wilcox, vice president and general counsel for the Texas Medical Association. “It’s good that the courts are following what the law says,” he said. “Physicians are under stress already because of the limits on how much they can receive [from] Medicare and Medicaid and other state programs. Because of the cap, most are still able to practice, and we don’t have these escalating” premium rates. Passage of the reforms have continued to…

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Ga. group offers way to curb health care costs

A Gallup survey this summer found that 26 percent of all health care spending in Georgia is on unnecessary tests. The state’s doctors ring up $15 billion annually in avoidable costs, mostly in efforts to create evidence in case they are sued. Just in the state’s Medicaid program, that amounts to $4 billion of expenses passed along to taxpayers every year, according to BioScience Valuation in a study sponsored by the Atlanta-based advocacy group Patients for Fair Compensation. “This is massive savings, something to be taken very seriously,” said Charles R. Evans, the vice chairman of Patients. “Certainly it should draw the attention of every state lawmaker grappling with fiscal uncertainty.” The latest proposal calls for establishment of a no-fault patient compensation system similar to state workers’ compensation plans. A century ago, Wisconsin enacted the first state workers’ compensation law when employers agreed to pay medical bills and wages without a court finding them at fault and workers agreed to give up their right to file suit. Employers were required to purchase insurance to guarantee the payouts. Such a tradeoff in the medical arena would require doctors and hospitals to compensate victims without going to court, and patients would give…

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Legislators Wrestle With Revamping Oregon’s Health Care System

As Oregon attempts to revamp its health care system, the state legislature will have to make all kinds of changes. One goal, which has plagued lawmakers for years, is to reduce the cost of medical malpractice lawsuits. Governor John Kitzhaber set up a workgroup this summer to come up with a few ideas. Kristian Foden-Vencil talked to a couple of workgroup members who say they're developing a process that would allow doctors, patients and hospitals to talk about mistakes — before everything ends up in court. When he's at the capital, Republican Senator Jeff Kruse wears a jacket and tie. But he's a farmer and today he's dressed in ripped jeans and covered head-to-toe in dust. Climbing out of a pickup, he snaps off an ear of corn out his field, shucks it and starts eating. Jeff Kruse: "We start picking at six in the morning, about daylight. You want to get it when it's cool and it stays fresh longer." Kristian: "And you're not boiling it or anything like that. It's just right out of the field." Jeff Kruse: "I will take some home and eat it for dinner too." When he's not harvesting corn, Kruse sits on the…

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GUEST: Medical liability an issue

In 2003, doctors in both Texas and New York faced a crisis. Excessive, costly and often baseless litigation was forcing physicians to limit their practices or shut their doors altogether. Hospitals were spending increasing amounts for lawsuits rather than investing in patient care. Leaders in Texas, encouraged by physicians across the state, took action to curb lawsuit abuse. In New York, on the other hand, efforts to pass lawsuit reforms stalled. Nine years later, the climate for practicing medicine in the two states couldn’t be more different. Texas is where physicians want to practice; our hospitals are able to invest liability savings into patient care, safety programs and charity care. In New York, meanwhile, doctors are retiring early and declining to take high-risk patients while hospitals are forced to choose between adding more care providers and paying their medical liability premiums. The success of reforms in Texas cannot be denied. Of the more than 27,000 physicians licensed to practice in Texas since 2003, nearly 2,000 did their training or had an active practice in New York. Like me, many came here because of the reformed legal climate. This is great news for Texans: more doctors means greater access to care…

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Appeals court upholds often-cited medical liability damages cap

In a victory for doctors, a Texas appeals court has upheld as constitutional the state’s $250,000 noneconomic damages cap in medical liability cases. The decision is the first time an appellate court has validated the limit under the state’s constitution. A federal court in March upheld the cap under the U.S. Constitution. The ruling strengthens Texas’ 2003 tort reform package and protects doctors from high insurance premiums, said Rocky Wilcox, vice president and general counsel for the Texas Medical Assn. The TMA was not involved in the case. “It’s good that the courts are following what the law says,” he said. “Physicians are under stress already because of the limits on how much they can receive [from] Medicare and Medicaid and other state programs. Because of the cap, most are still able to practice, and we don’t have these escalating” premium rates. The case involves a negligence lawsuit brought by David Fritzgerald against several physicians and Infectious Disease Doctors, P.A., a medical group serving the Dallas area. Fritzgerald underwent ulcer surgery in 2003 at then-RHD Memorial Medical Center in Dallas. He experienced complications after the surgery and was treated for an intra-abdominal infection by Meenakshi S. Prabhakar, MD, an infectious…

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