Archives: January 2013

January 2013 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now Volume 8, Issue 1 January 2013 Newsletter E-Newsletter Special points of interest: Long Liability Process Keeps Patients in the Waiting Room New Year’s Resolution for Reform in Missouri State Briefs Long Liability Process Keeps Patients in the Waiting Room Medical lawsuit abuse and a broken medical liability system are leaving injured patients without the compensation they need and deserve, and physicians spending too much time in the courtroom instead of the exam room. A new study in this month’s Health Affairs details the lengthy process physicians and patients are forced to endure and its effects on the quality of care they receive. The study determined that the average physician spends over 50 months, or about 11 percent, of their career with a pending liability claim. The average neurosurgeon fares much worse and can expect to spend 11 years of their assumed 40-year career facing an open claim. Underscoring the extent to which our liability system is broken, nearly 70 percent of those open claims studied resulted in no indemnity payments at all. Not surprisingly, the researchers found that “lengthier time to resolution affects physicians through added stress, work, and reputational damage, as well as loss of time dealing with…

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MO GOP To Bring Back Tort Reform In 2013

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) Missouri lawmakers have their eyes on reinstating liability limits for medical malpractice cases after the state Supreme Court struck down an existing cap on damages last summer. Republicans claim a supermajority when the Legislature meets Wednesday to start the 2013 session, and GOP leaders say restoring the liability limits invalidated by the high court is needed to control health care costs and help keep doctors in Missouri. “The judiciary, like a bunch of termites, has gone to work undermining that necessary tort reform,” said Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. “So we’re going to have to go back and do the heavy lifting all over again.” A significant piece of the Republican effort to curb liability lawsuits was a cap of $350,000 for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases. Before that, Missouri had an inflation-adjusted cap of $579,000 for noneconomic damages against each defendant for each act of negligence. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled 4-3 the 2005 law was unconstitutional. The court’s majority pointed to the state constitution’s Bill of Rights, which states “the right of a trial by jury as heretofore enjoyed shall remain inviolate.” Because Missourians had a common-law right…

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Michigan governor signs medical malpractice tort reform legislation

LANSING, MI – Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation last week that strengthens the state’s medical malpractice tort laws and provides additional protection against lawsuits to physicians. The Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS) initiated the legislation, known as the “Patients First Reform Package,” with support from medical malpractice insurer The Doctors Company and its trade organization, the Michigan Insurance Coalition. The legislation is comprised of Senate Bill 1115 – which clarifies that loss of society or companionship constitutes noneconomic damages and is therefore subject to Michigan’s noneconomic damages limit – and Senate Bill 1118 – which limits the time period for suing on behalf of a deceased person and bans prejudgment interest on costs and attorney fees incurred during the time before a judgment is issued. [See also: Massachusetts passes legislation to decrease defensive medicine] “In general, physicians are supportive of tort reforms that keep them out of the courtroom and keep them in the operating room,” said Colin Ford, MSMS’ senior director of state and federal government relations. “It’s good when the rules are clear to both sides and fair to both sides.” Ford noted that the legislation is not intended to bar all lawsuits from reaching the…

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The Drawn Out Process of the Medical Lawsuit

She was one of the most highly sought radiologists in her hospital, a doctor with the uncanny ability to divine the source of maladies from the shadows of black and white X-ray films. But one afternoon my colleague revealed that she had been named in a lawsuit, accused of overlooking an irregularity on a scan several years earlier. The plaintiff suing believed my colleague had missed the first sign of a now rampant cancer. While other radiologists tried to assure her that the “irregularity” was well within what might be considered normal, my colleague became consumed by the what-if’s. What if she had lingered longer on the fateful film? What if she had doubled-checked her reading before signing off on the report? She began staying late at the hospital to review, and review again, her work. And she worried about her professional reputation, asking herself if colleagues were avoiding her and wondering if she would have trouble renewing her license or hospital privileges. At home she felt distracted, and her husband complained that she had become easy to anger. After almost a year of worry, my colleague went to court and was cleared. But it was, at best, a Pyrrhic…

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Branstad keeps his address quiet, serious

It was a mostly silent Legislature that took in Gov. Terry Branstad’s annual Condition of the State address Tuesday. Applause lines in the roughly 30-minute speech were rare, and lawmakers mostly ignored the cues to clap. That doesn’t necessarily mean legislators were dismissive of what they heard. Republican leaders were appreciative of the focus on tax relief and job creation, even if they don’t entirely agree on how to deliver it. Democrats, while wary of the governor’s spending plans, praised his remarks about helping to train more Iowans in the skills needed in the workforce. Branstad kept his remarks very focused on a narrow list of priorities. There was very little red meat — and not much poultry, for that matter. He skipped the rhetorical baloney, too, except for a repeated refrain about the days of opportunity facing the state. He reserved most of the public gallery space for his own guests, but mentioned only a few people by name. There was no talk of public safety, gun violence or social issues like gay marriage and abortion. He laid out his priorities for property tax reform, but made no mention of income tax cuts. He also omitted mention of a…

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