Archives: April 2014

April 2014 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now Volume 9, Issue 4 April 2014 Newsletter E-Newsletter Special points of interest: MICRA Repeal Buried in California Ballot Initiative Paging President Obama – Liability Laws in Need of Reform Liability Climate Remains Cold in New York Liability Briefs MICRA Repeal Buried in California Ballot Initiative It has withstood dozens of direct challenges over the years, but California’s MICRA faces a yet another attack as repeal of the law and its associated medical liability reforms is hidden deep into a California ballot initiative purportedly aimed at drug testing for physicians. Widely popular, and with broad bipartisan support (apart from those who are affiliated with personal injury lawyers, that is), MICRA has kept medical liability premiums from skyrocketing and has preserved access to care for California patients since 1975. An recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal details exactly what California patients stand to lose if the law is repealed – access to quality, low cost healthcare and a large number of available physicians across all medical specialties. The piece contained information from a study by the Berkeley Research Group, estimating that raising the cap on damages to $1 million would increase liability premiums up to 38 percent, based on the…

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California’s Malpractice Ruse

AG Kamala Harris helps the trial bar try to sneak one past voters. One of California’s few emollients for employers is its limit on “pain and suffering” medical liability judgments, which has improved access to medical care and held down health costs. But look out: Plaintiffs lawyers abetted by Attorney General Kamala Harris are now trying to gut the cap with a ballot initiative dressed in patient-protection garb. In 1975 on his first tour as Governor, Jerry Brown signed legislation limiting attorney fees and non-economic damages on medical malpractice claims to $250,000. Lawsuits were driving up malpractice premiums, causing thousands of California physicians to close their practices and insurers to drop coverage of high-risk specialties. While plaintiffs can still recoup unlimited compensation for future medical costs and lost wages, the law has deterred attorneys from filing meritless lawsuits and reduced liability insurance costs. A 2004 article in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported that California malpractice premiums have increased by less than 3% annually, or one-third of the rate nationally, and have fallen by 40% in constant dollars since 1975. Annual liability premiums for an OB/GYN in Los Angeles are $49,804 compared to $140,092 in Chicago and $176,005 in Long…

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Medical liability reform will ease doctor shortage

Medical liability reform will ease doctor shortage Kudos to The News for reporting on the doctor shortage in upstate and Western New York. Unfortunately, the article cited “experts” saying that the reason we are facing a doctor shortage is that upstate New York lacks “amenities” and has “brutal winter weather.” As upstaters, we know that this area is a wonderful area to live, with plenty of amenities that cannot be found anywhere else. The real reason that doctors are not choosing upstate New York is the astronomical cost of lawsuits and medical liability insurance. New York’s medical liability payouts are the highest in the nation – more than three times the national average. Medical liability insurance in New York is so expensive that taxpayers now pay more than $120 million annually to subsidize premiums. For many doctors, avoiding New York is simply a sensible economic decision. For personal injury attorneys, New York is a great place to live. We have lax judicial rules and a host of technical tricks and loopholes that give plaintiffs’ attorneys the upper hand in court. With the highest number of attorneys per capita in the nation, there is no shortage of lawyers here. Our medical…

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All Is Not Lost for Medical Liability Reform

ORLANDO — The medical liability system in the U.S. is dysfunctional for physicians and their patients, but healthcare systems that have enacted successful reform offer hope for the future, according to a report from the American College of Physicians (ACP). “The medical liability system in the U.S. is broken. The current system just doesn’t work; it’s unfair to patients,” ACP President Molly Cooke, MD, told reporters in a press briefing at the college’s annual internal medicine meeting. An ACP policy paper on medical liability published online simultaneously in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “As physicians modify their practices in ways that they hope will decrease the risk of being sued, the patient-physician relationship is harmed,” Cooke said. “The current system also spends enormous amounts of money to compensate a small minority of injured patients by distributing large rewards to the 2% who actually bring a suit to court following medical harm.” Cooke went on to say reform is imperative due to these high costs. The Congressional budget office estimated that in 2009, clinicians incurred $35 billion in direct medical liability costs, which included premiums, settlements, awards, and administrative costs not included in insurance. The vast majority (89%) of internists and…

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Thune, Klobuchar Introduce Bill to Provide Licensure Clarity for Sports Medicine Professionals

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today introduced a bill clarifying that sports medicine professionals who travel outside their primary licensed state to provide care for the athletes will be covered by their medical malpractice insurance. Thune and Klobuchar’s bill, the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act, stipulates that health care services provided by a covered sports medicine professional to an athlete, athletic team, or staff member of an athlete or athletic team in a secondary state outside the state of licensure will be covered by the professional’s medical malpractice insurance provider. The bill removes questions about licensing jurisdiction and eliminates ambiguity about malpractice coverage when a provider is technically practicing out-of-state while treating a patient from the provider’s home state. “Sports medicine providers take on great professional and financial risk to treat injured athletes on the road,” said Thune. “While some states provide legal protection to shield these professionals from assuming the risk, many providers are still left with the decision of treating an injured athlete or accepting liability. I hope my colleagues will join us in supporting this common-sense legislation that helps deliver better care for traveling athletes while providing legal protections for…

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Whatever Happened to Medical Malpractice Reform?

President Obama might be thrilled that 7.1 million people signed up for ObamaCare. But doctors have good reason to hold their applause. Back in June 2009, Obama told a gathering of the American Medical Association that he was “looking at a range of ideas” to curtail costly medical malpractice lawsuits and “scale back the excessive defensive medicine.” A few months later, he told Congress that “I’ve talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs” and that he would borrow a page from President Bush and fund demonstration projects for various reforms at the state level. In a written note on a 2009 staff memo, Obama made it clear why he was talking up malpractice reform with doctors: “If this helps the AMA stay on board (with the Affordable Care Act), we should explore it.” In the end, Obama got the AMA’s ObamaCare endorsement. But so far he hasn’t delivered any malpractice reforms. Waste Of Time, Money There is widespread agreement that the current medical malpractice system is a costly waste, allowing too many frivolous lawsuits and outsized awards while encouraging overspending on health care. Between 2007 and 2011, doctors spent an average of…

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