Archives: March 2015

March 2015 Newsletter

Congress Comes Together on Medicare Reimbursements, Closes Liability Loophole By an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 392-37, Members of Congress last week came together to agree on an overarching measure that would protect patients and eliminate constant uncertainty over Medicare reimbursements. Passed on Thursday by the House was a permanent fix to the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that included language from the Standard of Care Protection Act to close a loophole in federal healthcare laws and regulations that may unintentionally open up new avenues for the pursuit of meritless lawsuits. The quality measures and payment methodologies contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are intended to measure the impact of health care delivery and payment systems; they cannot be exploited as the basis for a legal claim or cause of action for negligence against physicians and other health care providers. To protect against the potential for new liability exposure, it is clear that explicit protections are needed. “Under the bill that passed the House, no longer could federal health care programs be used, outside their intended purpose, to create new standards of care for medical liability lawsuits,” said Mike Stinson, HCLA Chair. “We are pleased with the…

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Historic House Vote Protects Right of State’s to Set Medical Liability Laws, Says Texas Alliance For Patient Access

Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed historic medical liability language in a bill that replaces the often-criticized Medicare physician payment formula known as the sustainable growth rate. The measure passed overwhelmingly with strong bi-partisan support. Language in the sustainable growth rate replacement bill ensures that federal quality and payment provisions may not be used in court to sue or to advance or defend a medical malpractice lawsuit. “The passage of today’s legislation will permanently fix the flawed sustainable growth formula and relieve doctors of the fear of undue legal issues,” said Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar. Rep. Cuellar had introduced similar stand-alone legislation. “It is my hope that the Senate swiftly votes and passes this bill,” he said. “This is the first step toward real, meaningful, entitlement reform, said Texas Congressman Michael Burgess, chief author of the bill. “I have worked my entire congressional career to address this problem and, after years of uneven progress, we have finally taken this opportunity to do what is right for seniors, providers and the American taxpayer. “Furthermore, the bill includes important standard of care provisions that protect state liability law and ensures that federal health care standards cannot be used to establish legal…

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Your Doctor Likely Orders More Tests Than You Actually Need

The surprising non-medical reasons why emergency room doctors order too many tests When you’re rushed to an emergency room, the doctors immediately order a battery of tests to figure out what’s wrong. But while scans and blood draws can tell them an incredible amount about what’s ailing you and the best treatment you should get, study after study shows that all of this testing isn’t actually leading to better care. Now, a new survey of emergency room doctors suggests why. Of the 435 ER physicians asked about the tests they order for their patients, more than 85% admitted that in general, they call for too many tests, even if they know the results won’t really help them decide how to treat their patients. Reporting in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine, the authors also say that nearly all of the doctors—97%—admitted to personally ordering unnecessary imaging tests. “So many physicians acknowledged that they ordered tests for no medical reason, which makes it clear that physicians feel enormous pressure to behave in a way they may not want to,” says Dr. Hemal Kanzaria, an emergency room physician at University of California Los Angeles and lead author of the study. Such unnecessary testing…

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Facing legal roadblocks, medical malpractice claims dwindle

The number of medical malpractice claims fell to a record low in Wisconsin last year as the state-managed insurance fund for the doctors grew to more than $1.2 billion, newly released records show. Only 84 medical malpractice suits were filed in Wisconsin last year — down from 140 the previous year — according to new statistics compiled by the Director of State Courts. For comparison, there were 294 actions filed in 1999. “Ninety-nine percent of lawyers … just don’t want to take medical malpractice cases,” said Michael End, a veteran Milwaukee medical malpractice attorney. “The cases are very expensive, very time consuming and so many are lost that ought to be won.” The state Medical Mediation Panels received 118 complaints last year — the lowest number in the agency’s history — down from 161 the previous year, agency administrator Randy Sproule said Friday. By comparison, there were 410 requests for mediation filed in 1987, the first full year of the agency’s operation. State law requires that plaintiffs file with the mediation panel before they can bring a suit in court. About one-third of the mediation complaints filed in 2013 and 2014 were done without lawyers, Sproule said. The Milwaukee Journal…

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Senate advances medical malpractice priority bill

SB 239, which creates a statutory cause of action for damages against health care providers, has left the Senate and moves to the House for consideration. Bill supporters say the bill will reduce incentives for “frivolous lawsuits.” Senate leaders released a statement saying that the bill will help lower skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance rates and keep doctors in Missouri. Senate Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said the issue has been a Senate priority, and it will create a better work environment to attract more doctors to the state. “By reinstating caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, we will reduce incentives for these frivolous lawsuits,” said Dempsey. “Overall, it means more accessible health care for all Missourians.” Ten years ago, the General Assembly attempted a reform of the state’s liability system through lowered jury award caps for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases, but the reform was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court in 2012 – removing the caps. “We are now starting to see some of the effects on medical malpractice insurance premiums since the Supreme Court decision as they continue to rise,” said bill sponsor Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla. “We need to support our medical…

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