Archives: May 2014

May 2014 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now Volume 9, Issue 5 May 2014 Newsletter E-Newsletter Special points of interest: Ten Years after Miss. Tort Reform, Patients Prevail Lower Medical Liability Costs – But Not for Long Apologies Accepted from Wisconsin Physicians Ten Years after Miss. Tort Reform, Patients Prevail Closed maternity wards. Skyrocketing costs and insurance premiums. Jackpot justice. Until medical liability reform was passed ten years ago in Mississippi, the effects of a medical liability crisis dominated the headlines in papers across the state. Today, a very different story is told – one of patients who have prevailed. The Jackson, MS Clarion-Ledger goes into detail about the “then and now” of Mississippi’s health care system – with “then” being a time when patients were deprived of access to care. “Sharkey-Issaquena (counties), a county-owned hospital, had closed the emergency room because they couldn’t pay the liability insurance premiums,” said former Governor Haley Barbour. “Doctors had quit delivering babies, had quit doing certain kinds of surgeries. There was at the time only one neurosurgeon between Jackson and Memphis who would do emergency surgery. … People were having to drive an hour for someone having a baby, and bad things can happen in an hour.” Since then, the…

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Mississippi Tort Reform at 10 Years

Former Gov. Barbour says state was facing ‘health care crisis’ with doctors and hospitals unable to afford insurance and afraid to practice because of lawsuits. As the 10th anniversary of Mississippi’s 2004 “tort reform” — limits on lawsuits — nears, supporters say the changes provided stability for doctors and businesses. But opponents say they limited citizens’ rights to their day in court and fair compensation. Regardless, it altered politics in Mississippi. “Hospitals were closing maternity wards,” said former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who led the charge in 2004 on tort reform. “There was a health care crisis. There was a gigantic number of liability lawsuits, and insurance premiums had skyrocketed for doctors and hospitals. … Every small business in Mississippi was one lawsuit away from bankruptcy. … Businesses would not consider coming to Mississippi because of lawsuit abuse.” By the early 2000s, Mississippi had become known as a lawsuit haven, where sympathetic juries and judges handed out huge awards. Medical, insurance, business and political forces joined to push for lawsuit reform. One round, after bitter fighting, was passed by the state Legislature in 2002, but these groups were pushing for more. Barbour made tort reform a key platform in his…

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Hospitals Battle Medical Malpractice Costs

Connecticut hospitals have seen a slow, but steady decline in medical malpractice insurance expenses in recent years, a positive sign for an industry that was battered by skyrocketing costs a decade ago. The state’s 29 acute care hospitals spent $119.9 million on medical malpractice insurance in fiscal year 2012, down 5.6 percent from a year earlier and 16.1 percent since fiscal 2009, according to data from the state Office of Health Care Access. The decline, healthcare executives say, has been driven in part by hospitals’ efforts to improve patient outcomes and prevent costly medical mistakes. Hospitals’ stronger negotiating power and a more competitive medical malpractice insurance market are also helping. Still, hospital officials warn, the lower costs may not be a long-term trend. Not all medical centers are seeing improvements, and malpractice costs have a history of seesawing. Last decade, for example, Connecticut physicians were hit by a tsunami of increasing insurance rates, fueling debates about malpractice reform. “Physicians are not seeing the increases they saw, but they haven’t gotten relief from where rates used to be,” said Todd Liu, assistant to the president at Griffin Hospital in Derby. “From an industry standpoint, premium levels for hospitals and physicians are…

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‘Apology Bill’ Shields Health Care Providers’ Apologies from Malpractice Suits in Wisconsin

Apologies by health care workers are protected from being used against them in court by a new law enacted in Wisconsin, which is one of more than 35 states to enact such a law. The law, Assembly Bill 120, was signed by Governor Scott Walker on April 8 in Madison. The intent of the law is to make statements of apology or condolence by health care providers inadmissible as evidence. The legislation could foster more conversations between health care providers and patients/family members when such interaction is needed most. The bill includes statements, gestures, and conduct that express “apology, benevolence, compassion, condolence, fault, liability, remorse, responsibility, or sympathy to a patient or his or her relative or representative.” These type of statements will not risk being admissible in civil action, administrative hearing, disciplinary proceedings, mediation, or arbitration as evidence of liability. Speaking for the Wisconsin Medical Society, Society President Richard A. Dart, MD, said, “The Society has been a strong proponent of legislation that promotes conversations between a physician and a patient or patient’s family following an unexpected or a negative outcome. AB 120 will foster more patient-physician interactions exactly when they’re needed most.” This law protects both apologetic statements…

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