Archives: February 2017

Lawmakers seek to cap damages in medical malpractice cases

Doctors who worry about medical malpractice lawsuits would get major relief under legislation that was approved by a House committee Tuesday and that would make it harder for patients to come after their money. The legislation, approved by the House Judiciary Committee in an 18-17 vote, would cap damages that can be paid by doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes. (Many states already limit awards paid by individual providers.) It would cover individuals who are insured under Medicare, Medicaid, veterans or military health plans, and the Affordable Care Act, and could also impact people covered under COBRA or health savings plans. In introducing the measure, Iowa Republican Representative Steve King referred to airlines, which, he said, “throw blame out the window” after an accident, and instead focus on how to prevent it from happening again. His comment enraged several Democrats, who accused King of favoring the economic interests of health care providers over malpractice victims — and of showing a lack of basic knowledge about law. “We cast blame,” said Florida Democratic Representative Ted Deutch. “That’s how the justice system works.” Lobbyists for medical professionals were delighted with the legislation. “Instead of being able to focus on their patients, more and more doctors…

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GOP Again Proposes Malpractice Tort Reform, With a Twist

Over the past 20 years, House Republicans repeatedly have passed malpractice tort reform that caps non-economic damages at $250,000, only to be stymied by Senate Democrats who view such measures as an intrusion on a plaintiff’s right to his or her day in court. Today, the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee narrowly approved another such medical liability bill, but one with a twist. The reforms would apply to malpractice suits in which the plaintiff received healthcare covered through a federal program, subsidy, or tax benefit. In other words, healthcare provided under Medicare, Medicaid, or private health plans subsidized by the Affordable Care Act. For that matter, the bill also would govern litigation involving services paid for by employer-sponsored health plans, because premiums enjoy federal tax exemption. Bill supporters contend that if the federal government is shelling out billions of dollars for healthcare, Congress should ensure that it’s getting the most bang for the taxpayer buck. The cap on non-economic, or pain and suffering, damages as well as other reforms in the bill, the argument goes, will deter frivolous malpractice suits, relieve physicians of the pressure to practice defensive medicine, lower malpractice insurance premiums, and increase access to healthcare. Bill supporters point…

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February 2017 Newsletter

  Act NOW for Medical Liability Reform – New Federal Bill Introduced Our grassroots network has been activated to generate support for the Protecting Access to Care Act (H.R. 1215), a new federal bill introduced last Friday that is based on proven state medical liability reforms and which will tackle health care costs that are rising as a result of a broken system. The Protecting Access to Care Act, introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), includes well-known, traditional reforms that ensure full and unlimited recovery of economic damages, allowing for payment of past and future medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and other out of pocket expenses.  The legislation also permits the additional recovery of up to $250,000 for non-economic damages, such as damages awarded for pain and suffering. The bill will be considered by the House Judiciary Committee TOMORROW (Tuesday). Click here to get contact information for committee members and express your support of this critical legislation. The Protecting Access to Care Act also includes a reasonable statute of limitations for filing lawsuits and limits attorney fees, allowing for speedier resolution of claims, and ensuring that damage awards go to deserving patients – not personal injury lawyers. It also…

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Scope of practice should set limits on medical liability testimony

Which medical professionals are qualified to provide medical causation testimony before a court? In Frausto v. Yakima HMA, the Supreme Court of Washington will determine whether an advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) is qualified to testify as to the causation of a patient’s medical condition. Rudy Frausto, a quadriplegic, presented to Yakima Regional Medical Center with symptoms of general body weakness, influenza and pneumonia. He was treated for 10 days and, during that time, developed decubitus ulcers. Frausto sued the hospital for medical malpractice. To support his claim, Frausto offered an affidavit from Karen Wilkinson, an ARNP. Wilkinson’s affidavit stated that the hospital had failed to provide Frausto with proper bedding, skin assessments and other care and had thus caused the bed sores. A trial court noted that Wilkinson had practiced as a licensed nurse for more than 26 years, had taught other nurses and had extensive experience as a staff nurse. The court held that she was qualified to testify as to the standard of care. But the court also held that Wilkinson, as a nurse, was unqualified to testify about medical causation. Frausto appealed to the Supreme Court of Washington. “The ability to testify accurately regarding causation is…

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Tort Reform Introduced in Iowa Legislature

On Monday, both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees introduced bills on tort reform HSB 105  and SSB 1087  This IMS-crafted tort reform package represents the most comprehensive reforms to Iowa’s medical liability system in more than a generation and marks the culmination of years of work by numerous physician leaders throughout our state. Watch for updates in the IMS Advocate. The bill would enact the following: $250,000 Cap on Noneconomic Damages Strengthened Expert Witness Standards Certificate of Merit in All Suits Affirmative Defense for Evidence-Based Medicine Limiting Contingency Fee Arrangements Expanding Candor A Brief History of Tort Reform in Iowa In 2004, IMS championed the passage of a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages, which was ultimately vetoed by then-Governor Vilsack. In the wake of this setback, IMS redoubled its efforts, devoting significant time and resources into developing additional reform proposals to help improve our liability climate. In 2011, IMS-crafted Certificate of Merit legislation passed the Iowa House but failed to pass the Democratically-controlled Iowa Senate. 2013 also saw significant House action on an IMS-crafted tort reform package that included a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages and a Certificate of Merit requirement. After the legislature again failed to enact meaningful reforms that…

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