Archives: May 2015

May 2015 Newsletter

Patient Protection Measures in Place in Missouri Over the past three years, following the repeal of limits on non-economic damages, patients in Missouri were left vulnerable as physicians considered relocation or closure. Now, the Governor of Missouri has ensured that access to care is not a false promise. In supporting the reinstatement of reasonable limits on non-economic damages, Governor Jay Nixon said the state Supreme Court decision to repeal the measure created a level of uncertainty. “This decision resulted in a new problem by creating a climate of financial uncertainty for health care providers,” he said. As the bill went through the Missouri House and Senate, support was found on both sides of the political aisle – including from those who previously opposed efforts to reform the state’s liability laws. “Together we are marking the successful completion of a bipartisan effort to ensure that our health care providers can continue to do what they do best, help and heal Missourians in need,” Nixon stated as he signed the bill into law. Bipartisan results were achieved by slightly raising the limits and agreeing to annual percentage increases. To read more about the passage of medical liability reform for Missouri patients, click…

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Medical malpractice suits drop in Pennsylvania

The number of medical malpractice case filings statewide has dropped to its lowest point in a decade and a half of tracking. Plaintiffs’ lawyers filed 1,463 such cases in Pennsylvania’s civil courts in 2014, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. That was about half as many as in 2002, before two significant rule changes made by the state Supreme Court. In an effort to weed out frivolous suits, the high court required suits be vetted by medical professionals before being allowed to proceed. It also demanded that a suit be filed in the county where the cause of action took place, which prevented so-called venue-shopping. “Frivolous lawsuits pull health professionals out of serving patients,” said Charles Moran, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Medical Society, which represents doctors. “They can be expensive and time consuming. That money and time is better spent treating patients.” The decline in medical malpractice case filings statewide has been largely driven by Philadelphia, the state’s judicial district with the largest caseload, where the number of medical malpractice case filings last year was a fraction of what it was in 2000. Statewide, 127 medical malpractice cases were resolved through jury verdicts last year, compared with 326…

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The ‘Michigan Model’ for Malpractice Reform

Doctors have many tests and procedures to choose from when treating you. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? It is. Overuse and waste in medical care—which include ordering more tests and treatment than scientific evidence supports—make up as much as 30% of health-care spending according to a 2013 Institute of Medicine report. That’s approximately $750 billion a year, which we all pay for in premiums and taxes to support Medicare and other insurance programs. A massive new effort to eliminate wasteful spending has begun. This year the Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to pay doctors and hospitals more for quality, not quantity. Private insurers are likely to follow suit. We recently published findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine from a national survey of hospitalists—physicians who primarily treat patients in the hospital setting—that sheds some light on how medical tests and treatments are overused, and how often. We asked hospital doctors to imagine two common patient scenarios—a cardiac evaluation before surgery and a patient who suddenly loses consciousness—and asked what they thought most of their colleagues in their hospital would do. Evidence-based guidelines exist for both scenarios. More often than not,…

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Caps on medical malpractice lawsuits signed into law

Limits on monetary damages in medical malpractice lawsuits have been reinstated in Missouri. Gov. Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 239 into law Thursday at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Jefferson City. The state’s Supreme Court overturned the previous limits three years ago. Since 2005 they had been at $350,000. Commonly known as tort reform, the bill places caps of $400,000 on damages for personal injury and $700,000 for a catastrophic injury – death, paralysis or loss of vision for example – in a medical malpractice lawsuit. It also includes a clause to increase the limits by 1.7 percent each year. Without caps on damages, insurance companies can charge doctors a range of premiums to insure their practice. Nixon said the Supreme Court’s decision created a level of uncertainty. “This decision resulted in a new problem by creating a climate of financial uncertainty for health care providers,” he said. Noneconomic damages, as the bill defines them, include everything except the medical costs and lost wages as a result of the injury. Ravi Johar, an OBGYN at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis and president-elect of the Missouri State Medical Association, joined other doctors and the governor in Jefferson City on Thursday….

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