Archives: June 2019

A Missed Opportunity for the Malpractice System to Improve Health Care

SOURCE: The New York Times The American medical malpractice system is doing almost nothing to improve the quality of health care, research suggests. What may be more concerning is that there is very little discussion, much less action, on reform. Despite worries among doctors that they are at financial risk from large payouts to plaintiffs, it turns out that a small percentage are responsible for a huge number of claims. A new study, confirming earlier research, found that about 2 percent of doctors accounted for about 39 percent of all claims in the United States. The study contained other valuable information about a system that not only compensates patients who have been harmed, but is also supposed to identify physicians who may be performing poorly and need correction. First, these doctors quit at higher rates than other physicians. This is considered good news by the medical profession. These doctors also tend not to pick up and move somewhere else to start fresh (which many thought they’d do given that licenses and malpractice are regulated at the state level). But the overwhelming majority of doctors who had five or more paid claims kept on going. And they also moved to solo…

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June 2019 Newsletter

Lifting liability limits in New Mexico could take medical system from bad to worse Already ranking two spots from the bottom on access to health care when compared to all U.S. states, New Mexico patients now face another obstacle if personal injury attorneys have their way. Challenges stemming from a rural landscape, an aging population, and low physician pay influencing recruitment already make it difficult for patients to access affordable health care. Making things worse is an attempt to raise reasonable limits on non-economic damages to $2 million for individual physicians and $25 million for medical entities, which includes many small practices. Michael Kaufman, MD, of Taos Medical Group, who has practiced internal medicine in Taos for more than 40 years, expressed what many fellow practitioners were feeling: “If this goes through, we’re out of here.” Dr. Kaufman cited an impossible operating environment for a four-physician, three-nurse practitioner practice due to higher insurance premiums required to remain covered under an increased limit. While the measure was defeated – for now – due to overwhelming opposition by the healthcare community demonstrating their concern for their patients’ access to healthcare, it remains likely to be introduced again in the future. Click here…

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Kansas Supreme Court rules cap on damages for pain, suffering is unconstitutional

SOURCE: The Wichita Eagle In a major decision that figures to change the landscape of personal injury litigation in Kansas, the state’s supreme court on Friday ruled that caps on certain damages that juries can award are unconstitutional. The court ruled that limits imposed by the Kansas Legislature on noneconomic damages — jury awards that account for pain, suffering, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life following an injury — violate a person’s right to a jury trial under the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Right. The high court issued the ruling in a Sedgwick County case filed by a woman who was hurt in November 2010 when a semi-truck rear-ended the car she was riding in. Diana K. Hilburn sued Enerpipe Ltd., alleging the crash was the result of the truck driver’s negligence and the company was liable. At trial, a jury awarded Hilburn $335,000 in damages including $33,490.86 for medical expenses and $301,509.14 for noneconomic damages such as pain, suffering, emotional anguish and loss of enjoyment of life. But a district court judge reduced the award by more than $51,000 to bring it in line with the state’s then-$250,000 award cap, which legislators passed in 1988 to cut…

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New Mexico damage cap increase threatens patient care access

SOURCE: Las Cruces Sun News New Mexico ranks 48th out of 50 states for access to healthcare. Various factors restrict New Mexicans’ access to care, including the rural nature of much of the state, an aging patient population needing more appointments, a large portion of the physician population nearing retirement and crippling student loan debt that has many new physicians seeking higher compensation elsewhere. With access to care already threatened, New Mexico should not pursue legislation that would add to the burden by increasing physician liability and encouraging physicians to close their doors and practice elsewhere. Even for a largely rural state, New Mexico’s overall density of medical professionals is well below the national benchmark. “In New Mexico,” says Paul Sanchez, MD, Albuquerque ophthalmologist and president of the Greater Albuquerque Medical Association, “we are desperately underserved by physician providers.” Faced with months-long waits for appointments, many New Mexicans seek care outside the state — or don’t get treatment at all. Meanwhile, healthcare organizations are struggling to recruit physicians. Many new physicians graduate with around $200,000 in student loan debt — and New Mexico’s physician compensation is among the lowest in the nation. With 31 percent of the population of New…

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