Archives: October 2016

October 2016 Newsletter

  Medical liability efforts credited with restraining insurance rates Medical liability insurance rates remained stable, albeit high, in 2016, with medical liability initiatives credited for preventing further sharp increases in costs for physicians. According to the 2016 Medical Liability Monitor Annual Rate Survey, medical liability insurance premiums were nearly unchanged, with a slight 0.1 percent decrease from 2015. Nearly 75 percent of survey respondents noted that their rates remained the same year over year. Going forward, most respondents – over 80 percent – predicted continued stability in the foreseeable future. Medical Liability Monitor Editor Michael Matray commented that “rates today are similar to what they were 10 to 15 years ago,” when physicians were reeling from sky-high insurance rates. Matray attributed the stabilization of liability insurance rates to state reforms as well as the “general shift in the attitudes of the jury pool” due to the work of the American Medical Association and PIAA, both members of HCLA. While liability insurance rates are stable in the midst of increases elsewhere in the health care industry, some remain at the high peaks reached over a decade ago – which is where they’ll stay without comprehensive federal liability reform. To read the…

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Feldman: Indiana leads in malpractice reform

When making the decision to apply to medical school, I told my father, a revered family doctor in South Bend for more than 40 years, that I had anxieties about becoming a doctor. He told me that doctors are human and like all human beings, physicians make mistakes. He was right. Even the best doctors make errors. Fortunately the vast majority are minor and correctable and do not result in harm. Our society has become terribly litigious and medical liability in America is out of control. Not all suits are justified and based on true negligence. In many states across the country, medical malpractice premiums are skyrocketing beyond what physicians can realistically pay and still practice. Some insurance companies are refusing to write medical liability policies, and physicians are abandoning high-risk procedures or are leaving some states altogether to find more practice-friendly environments. In some highly litigious states without a malpractice-reform act, some medical specialties are hard to find. The bottom line is that huge malpractice insurance premiums result in significant increases in the cost of health care and a serious decrease in access to medical care in many states. Lack of patient access to neurosurgeons, hospital trauma centers and…

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Tort Reform’s Impact On Health Care Costs

SUMMARY: The American Action Forum (AAF) found multiple state medical liability reforms reduced total healthcare premiums by 2.6 percent. Employer healthcare costs also declined by 3.5 percent. If these results were replicated on a national level, the nation’s insured could save more than $15 billion in premiums. INTRODUCTION The idea of “tort reform” has existed as a policy concept for decades. Tort reform has taken several forms and gained prominence in the 1990s as a way to curb high jury awards. For example, legislators can cap damages, reform how damages are paid, and amend joint and several liability (allowing the plaintiff to collect money from anyone found liable, regardless of their degree of liability). In this paper, AAF focused exclusively on tort reforms related to medical malpractice to determine the effects of limiting liability on the healthcare costs that employers and employees pay. Tort reform has some degree of bipartisan support. In 2009, President Obama advocated tacit backing for the idea before the American Medical Association. He remarked, “I want to work with the AMA so we can scale back the excessive defensive medicine that reinforces our current system, and shift to a system where we are providing better care,…

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Doctor Malpractice Premiums Remain Flat Amid Obamacare ‘Tumult’

Medical malpractice premiums are flat, and even falling in some cases, even as healthcare costs rise, particularly for Americans purchasing individual policies on exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. Medical malpractice premiums remain flat as they have for years now, with rates “experiencing only a very slight (0.1%) cumulative decrease from last year across the industry,” according to the 2016 Medical Liability Monitor Annual Rate Survey. “The stability of medical malpractice premium rates is a stark contrast to the tumult occurring in other segments of the U.S. healthcare delivery system as a result of the reforms spurred by the Affordable Care Act,” Michael Matray, editor of Medical Liability Monitor, said in a statement accompanying the survey. “A full three-quarters of the respondents to our survey reported no rate changes in the last year, and just under 80% of respondents said they believe the market is neither hardening nor softening.” Still, it’s not cheap to insure a doctor against malpractice claims. For example, anobstetrician/gynecologist in Chicago paid a malpractice premium of $127,000 in 2016, which was the same as 2015 , according to rates the Doctors Company submitted to Medical Liability Monitor. Medical malpractice premiums for obstetricians aren’t as high in…

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Measures On Medical Suits, Casinos Nixed; Medical Marijuana Upheld

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday struck ballot issues on medical lawsuits and casinos from the Nov. 8 ballot and upheld a ballot issue to legalize medical marijuana. The decisions were announced in four separate opinions, all unanimous. Medical lawsuits In two opinions, the state’s top court sided with two groups that challenged Issue 4, which would amend the state constitution to direct the Legislature to set a cap no lower than $250,000 on non-economic damages, such as damages for pain and suffering, in medical suits and would cap lawyers’ contingency fees in medical-injury suits at one-third of the amount recovered. Fairness for Arkansans, a group created by the Arkansas Bar Association, alleged that the ballot title of Issue 4 is misleading and incomplete because, among other things, it does not define the term “non-economic damages.” The Supreme Court said it agreed on that point and therefore did not need to consider the group’s other points. “Without a definition of this term, the voter would be in the position of guessing as to the effect his or her vote would have unless he or she is an expert in the legal field,” the court said in an opinion written by…

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