Archives: March 2020

Make this simple change to free up hospital beds now

SOURCE: The New York Times There is something we can do immediately that will dramatically help hospitals free up beds and medical equipment to help those suffering from covid-19. This proposal will save lives the minute that states and other authorities adopt it. We are in urgent need of emergency laws, or executive orders, in every state that temporarily relax the legal standard of medical malpractice. This is not an end-run to bring about tort reform. It is an emergency step, necessary in a national emergency, to save lives. Here’s why: Normally, when emergency physicians admit a patient who has a small but non-trivial chance of having a serious medical problem that further testing and observation may reveal, we do not hesitate to do so. Our rationale is twofold. First, the risk of the patient catching a hospital-acquired infection is lower than the benefit of detecting a more insidious medical problem. Second, the legal exposure is too high to do otherwise. Even if we are wrong only 1 out of every 100 or 1,000 times, the legal liability of one mistake can ruin careers and bankrupt medical practices. So, we admit. But coronavirus has changed that calculation. If a physician…

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Risks of Dusting Off the Scrubs

SOURCE: The National Law Review As the country ramps up to contain the rapid spread of COVID-19, the governors of New York and Colorado have called on former health care workers to support health systems stressed by the coronavirus. Doctors and nurses, for example, who currently work in another field or are retired with an active medical license, or one that can be reactivated, are encouraged to “dust off their scrubs.” Both governors recognize that many of the health care providers treating patients with the coronavirus have been forced to self-quarantine for at least two weeks after coming in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case, thus creating a shortage of doctors and nurses available to treat patients for any medical need. Governor Cuomo of New York suggested, but has not yet ordered, that former doctors and nurses “reconnect” with their past employers so that an “on call” reserve can be available. Professional Liability Concerns Such a request, which could soon become an official declaration, raises professional liability questions, such as would Good Samaritan laws shield these volunteers from liability? Or would the malpractice insurance of hospitals or nursing homes extend coverage to include these volunteer nurses and doctors? Under the…

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Retired Physician Volunteers Receive No-Cost Malpractice Coverage during COVID-19 Pandemic

SOURCE: The Doctors Company As U.S. healthcare systems are being tested to the limit during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Doctors Company has announced that it will provide free medical professional liability coverage to retired physicians formerly insured by the company who volunteer during the crisis. “Today, our mission to advance, protect, and reward the practice of good medicine is more important than ever. We appreciate our members’ lifesaving work during this crisis and want to make it as easy as possible for our retired members to assist,” said Richard E. Anderson, MD, FACP, chairman and chief executive officer of The Doctors Company. If retired former members of The Doctors Company return to practice as volunteers, this decision will not impact their extended reporting period, or tail, coverage. Additionally, there will be no impact on previous Tribute® Plan awards received for their loyalty and commitment to superior patient care. To qualify, a retired healthcare professional must be providing professional services for no fee, salary, or other compensation—with the exception of expenses incurred delivering those services. Retired former members of The Doctors Company interested in the free coverage can complete an online form or call (800) 421-2368, and press 1 for Member…

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March 2020 Newsletter

In this time of uncertainty and rapidly changing developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, we express our thanks and appreciation for those who continue to work at the front line of our health care systems. The HCLA and Protect Patients Now remain committed to keeping you updated on medical liability reform developments at the state and federal levels. Good Samaritan language added to economic stimulus bill Exemplifying the risk physicians face when working across state lines in a time of crisis is the current need for interstate health care resources to adequately respond to COVID-19 cases while ensuring medical liability coverage. As a result, the Health Coalition on Liability and Access, its member organizations, and congressional cosponsors of the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act (H.R. 6283/S. 1350) advocated for provisions of this legislation to be included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748) signed into law by President Trump on March 27. While the COVID-19 economic stimulus bill does not include the Good Samaritan language in full, it effectively applies the protections — for which the HCLA has long advocated — to volunteers serving existing or potential COVID-19 patients for the duration of this public health…

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Stimulus Bill Would Boost Liability Protection for Volunteer Docs

SOURCE: Bloomburg Law The embattled Senate stimulus package, if approved, would remove a troubling legal barrier by providing limited liability protection for doctors and other caregivers who volunteer across state lines during the coronavirus emergency. The mammoth legislation (H.R. 748), tied up in negotiations with Senate Democrats and Republicans, includes a provision that would give volunteer health professionals the civil immunity they receive in their home states when providing care to Covid-19 patients in another state. Supporters say the “Good Samaritan” provision could spur more doctors, anesthesiologists, and other health professionals to assist overwhelmed providers in hard-hit states like California, New York, and Washington, where access to care is already a major concern. Improving liability protections during the pandemic is particularly important for physicians who use telehealth services to treat out-of-state patients and for those who live near state borders and may be needed for rapid response to a surge in patient volume across state lines, Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association, said. Across State Lines Federal and state laws offer some liability protection for health-care volunteers if they’re licensed in the state where they’re providing services. But those protections break down when volunteering across state lines, said…

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