Archives: June 2016

June 2016 Newsletter

Republican Health Care Task Force Offers Medical Liability Solutions for Patients, Physicians New health care reforms, including medical liability proposals, were introduced last week by the Republican Health Care Task Force and formally kicked off initiatives that will guide the legislative activities in a new Congress, with a new administration. Led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, the health care reform framework and proposal offered by Republicans aims to empower patients, make the health system more accessible and affordable, and spur medical innovation. “We know that comprehensive medical liability reform that includes caps on non-economic damages will improve patients’ access to quality care while reducing the overall cost of health care in America,” the report states. “Our plan will include liability reform that includes caps on non-economic damage awards, ensuring plaintiffs can recover full economic damages and that patients will not have their damages taken away by excessive lawyer contingency fees.” These reforms have proven effective in states like California and Texas, where patients have greater access to critical care, and health care costs and liability premiums remain affordable. “The HCLA will work with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, as well as the new administration, to bring…

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Medical Liability Reform

The nation’s medical liability system is broken, and it has imperiled patient access and imposed tremendous costs on our nation. The current system has forced doctors out of practicing in certain specialties; it has caused trauma centers to close; and it has forced pregnant women to drive hours to find an obstetrician.42 The current system also has imposed a tremendous burden in unnecessary costs on our national health care system and federal government. Estimates are that the failure to enact meaningful medical liability reform costs our nation’s health care system as much as $300 billion each year.43 In states without liability reform, the system does not serve anyone except trial lawyers. Injured patients are not compensated in a timely or equitable way. They are forced to wade through several years of litigation and receive, on average, only 46 cents of every dollar awarded while the remaining 54 cents goes to their lawyers and other administrative fees.44 President Obama has repeatedly promised to address the issue of medical liability reform but has failed to do so. The time for experiments is over. California and Texas, as well as numerous other states, already have taken the difficult steps to enact comprehensive liability…

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As malpractice verdicts drop in Pennsylvania, officials disagree on implications

Medical malpractice jury verdicts hit a 15-year low statewide last year, a sign the medical community sees as welcome relief from escalating insurance premiums but lawyers view as evidence that injured patients are being unfairly denied an opportunity for redress. In 2004, Pennsylvania juries issued verdicts in 449 medical malpractice cases, with 78.4 percent of those verdicts in favor of the defendant; in 2015, the numbers were 101 verdicts, with 78.2 percent favoring the hospital or medical professional. Similarly, Allegheny County saw its verdict numbers go from 49 in 2004, with 73.4 percent favoring the defense, while all 10 verdicts in 2015 favored the defendant. What’s going on? Legal and medical officials could hardly see the matter more differently. “I think the medical community, and insurers as well, have done a tremendous job of creating a jury bias toward these types of cases,” said Lawrence M. Kelly, president of the Western Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and partner at the Luxenberg Garbett Kelly & George law firm in New Castle, Lawrence County. By painting scenarios in which physicians could abandon whole towns over liability concerns, he said, they’ve persuaded jurors and legislators to construct roadblocks to filing. “The problem is that…

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Medical Malpractice Proposal Seeks Out Public Vote

Advocates of capping noneconomic damage awards in lawsuits against health care providers have taken a new tack. They want to amend the Arkansas Constitution instead of making change through the Arkansas Legislature. “Every time we wanted to do something legislatively, it wouldn’t go anywhere,” said Michael Morton of Fort Smith, an outspoken backer of the proposed amendment who operates 30 Arkansas nursing homes. “I’m tired of negotiating without getting anything accomplished. If people don’t like it, fine. If people like it, fine.” Morton and other proponents want to put an “Amendment to Limit Attorney Contingency Fees and Non-Economic Damages in Medical Lawsuits” to a vote of the people. Canvassers are busy gathering signatures to put their proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot. In addition to capping monetary awards for pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages at $250,000, the measure would limit contingency fees to 33.3 percent for lawyers suing doctors, clinics, hospitals and nursing homes. The issue is beginning to draw familiar battle lines seen whenever the banner of “tort reform” has been raised to alter the legal landscape. “I haven’t seen the pros,” said Matt Haas, CEO of the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association. “But then I haven’t seen…

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