Archives: June 2013

June 2013 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now Volume 8, Issue 6 June 2013 Newsletter E-Newsletter Special points of interest: AMA Challenges Congress to Pass Standard of Care Protection Act New Legislation to Decrease Meritless Claims in Florida Challenge to Liability Laws in New Mexico Threatens to Increase Costs Changes in Pennsylvania’s Liability System Credited with Reducing Lawsuits AMA Challenges Congress to Pass Standard of Care Protection Act An editorial piece in American Medical News challenges Congress to follow the example of Georgia in passing a bill that ensures no provisions of federal health care law may be inappropriately used to create new threats for medical liability litigation in the United States. “One potential loophole exists in the federal care quality and payment reform provisions authorized by the Affordable Care Act,” the editorial states. “Unfortunately, some might seek to inflate these provisions into something they were not meant to be by arguing that they establish new federal standards of care when it comes to determining medical liability in court cases.” While this loophole has been closed in Georgia (and previously in Florida), it remains open in the other 48 states, threatening access to care and opening the door for frivolous lawsuits. “[The bill passed in Georgia] states…

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May 2013 Newsletter

  Protect Patients Now Volume 8, Issue 5 May 2013 Newsletter E-Newsletter     Special points of interest: Protecting Our Good Samaritans Rx for Health Care Crisis? A Dose of Medical Liability Reform Saying You’re Sorry Protecting Our Good Samaritans Hurricane Katrina. Superstorm Sandy. Midwestern tornadoes. When large-scale disasters strike, medical professionals often rush to the scene to provide immediate care to victims. Unfortunately, due to inconsistencies in federal and state laws, these volunteer health care professionals have been turned away or limited in the scope of their assistance because of the threat of medical liability lawsuits. Introduced by Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Jim Matheson (D-UT), H.R. 1733, The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act would help protect medical volunteers from lawsuits during a federally declared disaster, and ensure that vital health care services often provided by medical volunteers remain available. The protections in H.R. 1733 will only apply to licensed health care providers, and will not apply to a health care provider if the harm caused was criminal or deliberate in nature. The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act will ensure that an adequate supply of trained health care professionals are ready, willing and able to volunteer their services during a catastrophe,…

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Malpractice Filings Drop in Pennsylvania

According to a report from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, Pennsylvania medical malpractice filings dropped 10% in 2012. The report showed that 1,675 claims were filed in 2011 compared with 1,508 in 2012. By comparison, there was an average of 2,733 cases filed yearly between 2000 and 2003. In 2003, two significant changes to the malpractice rules in the state took effect. The first required plaintiffs in a medical malpractice case to obtain a “certificate of merit” from a medical professional, attesting that the medical care in the case fell outside of acceptable standards. The second change requires that the malpractice action be brought only in the county where the alleged malpractice took place, this change instituted to avoid what is known as “venue shopping,” when malpractice attorneys pick more favorable jurisdictions to have cases heard. A representative from the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, a trial lawyers’ group, said that the decline indicated that more drastic changes to malpractice laws – such as caps on damages – are not necessary. In Philadelphia, where the majority of malpractice suits are filed in the state, 389 cases were filed in 2012, the second lowest number in 10 years and down from…

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Medical malpractice cases in Lackawanna County in 2012 drop by 53 percent

Lackawanna County’s medical malpractice case filings in 2012 fell 53.8 percent from the average filed in the early 2000s, an ongoing trend sparked by reforms initiated by the state Supreme Court more than a decade ago. Statewide and in most of Northeast Pennsylvania, attorneys have filed far fewer medical malpractice lawsuits annually since 2000-2002 after the passage of two rule changes by the court, an annual report found. One rule change required attorneys to file medical malpractice claims in the county where they occur, eliminating the practice of filing lawsuits in counties where jurors are more plaintiff-friendly. A second change required attorneys to obtain a certificate of merit indicating the procedure in question fell outside acceptable professional standards before they could file their cases. Last year, there were 1,508 medical malpractice cases filed in Pennsylvania, about 44.8 percent fewer than the average filed during the base years, or 2000-2002, according to an Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts report. “These numbers continue to reinforce the value in the requirements adopted by the courts for filing medical malpractice claims in an effort to balance access and fairness in the state court system,” Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille said in a…

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Tort reform challenge threatens medical liability premiums

An appellate court examines the New Mexico law’s constitutionality and its $600,000 damages cap, but physicians are fighting back, fearing changes will drive up costs. New Mexico’s tort reform, which has been on the books since the mid-1970s, is facing legal challenges on the law’s constitutionality and how to define the word “occurrence” when applying the damages cap. Physician advocates say upholding the law and making sure it is enforced the way it has been in the previous decades is key to keeping medical liability insurance companies in the state and maintaining premiums at a level that physicians can afford. “It is a very important case for us,” said Randy Marshall, executive director of the New Mexico Medical Society. “We have a very good medical malpractice act.” Plaintiffs in the case, Baker v. Hedstrom, are asking the New Mexico Court of Appeals to decide whether the Legislature constitutionally has the right to set a limit on awards that can be collected. They argue, among other things, that the law interferes with the right to a jury trial. Physician defendants in the lawsuit are asking the Court of Appeals in Albuquerque to decide whether an “occurrence” to which the damage cap…

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Health reform medical liability shield a model of good sense

Georgia now protects its physicians from a possible liability loophole in the ACA. The rest of the nation must do the same. The Affordable Care Act will bring new insurance coverage to tens of millions of people, put a needed focus on preventive care, and start modernizing delivery and payment systems that could use an overhaul. These are large-scale, important changes for patients and the physicians who serve them. But no single reform law is going to be complete or perfect, especially not one with goals as sweeping as the ACA’s. Physicians need to remain diligent that the move toward strengthening the health system doesn’t give inadvertent openings to those who would attempt to exploit its weaknesses. One potential loophole exists in the federal care quality and payment reform provisions authorized by the ACA. On their face, they are intended to move away from a system that pays for care based solely on the volume of services and toward one that takes quality of care into consideration — certainly an admirable goal. Unfortunately, some might seek to inflate these provisions into something they were not meant to be by arguing that they establish new federal standards of care when it…

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Scott signs FMA-priority medical liability reform bill

Gov. Rick Scott has signed the Florida Medical Association’s priority medical liability reform legislation, transforming the state’s medical practice environment by requiring fairness in the use of expert witnesses. SB 1792, sponsored by Sen. Tom Lee and Rep. Matt Gaetz, requires medical expert witnesses to be in the same specialty as defendant physicians, ensures physicians’ constitutional right to counsel, and gives parties equal access to medical fact witnesses. “The FMA is grateful to the Governor for making these critical, pro-medicine reforms the law of the land,” FMA President Vincent DeGennaro, M.D., said on behalf of the FMA’s 20,000 members. “The signing of SB 1792 represents many years of effort by the FMA to bring more fairness to Florida’s tort system.” These changes are particularly meaningful considering Florida’s current medical liability environment which is among the most costly in the nation. Liability concerns are cited as the number one reason by physicians for choosing to retire before retirement age, leave high-risk and high-need specialties, or leave the state to practice elsewhere. These historic tort system reforms will benefit patients as well. “Making Florida a more welcoming place for physicians to practice medicine is essential to increasing Floridians’ access to medical care,…

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