August 2016 Newsletter

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  • August 30, 2016

Florida lawsuit challenges timely resolution of claims

A challenge has been mounted in Florida that could threaten the ability of patients and physicians to resolve medical liability lawsuits in a timely manner.

Being considered by the Florida Supreme Court is a case, ruled valid by a trial court and the Florida First District Court of Appeals, that seeks to scale back the requirement that a plaintiff authorize the release of relevant health information as a condition of bringing forward a lawsuit.

When passed in 2013, the amendment to the Florida Medical Liability Act was supported by defendants and claimants as a way to eliminate frivolous lawsuits and move forward more quickly towards a resolution for those with merit.

It allows for a more informal process of gathering information ahead of a trial, due to the fact that a formal deposition can lead to physicians spending more time in the courtroom – and more time away from patients in the exam room.

Writing an amicus brief in support of the law as it stands is the Litigation Center of the AMA and State Medical Societies. “If the right to this informal discovery is removed,” the brief said, “the result will be to return to an uneven playing field and the inability to avoid cumbersome and costly formal discovery.”

To read more about the challenge to Florida’s liability laws, click here.

Lack of liability reform leaves Arkansas patients hoping for action

Long known for Hope, Arkansas patients may be relying on it more when it comes to access to care across the state.

A recent piece from the Heartland Institute noted how a lack of medical liability reform in many states, including Arkansas, could lead to shortages of physicians.

“Our legal culture, coupled with an aggressive state supreme court, historically has disfavored mainstream civil liability policies,” said Daniel Greenberg, president of the Advance Arkansas Institute. “More than half the states have some kind of limit on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice,” but in Arkansas, “the sky is the limit.”

This has led to less than 200 physicians across the state per 100,000 people – a statistic that ranks Arkansas fifth from the bottom in national patient/physician ratios.

With a highly litigious environment, newly minted physicians avoid the state, and existing physicians – and patients – bear the costs of practicing in a state without medical liability reform laws.

To read more about the ill-effects of a lack of liability reform on patients in Arkansas, click here.

PIAA Chairman talks of commitment to reforms that cut costs

Defensive medicine, reasonable limits on non-economic damages, and an unwavering commitment to legal reforms were all on the table as PIAA Chairman Dr. Richard Anderson spoke to Modern Healthcare about reducing health care costs in the US.

A key priority Dr. Anderson focused on was for PIAA, a key member of the HCLA, “to continue to fight for legal reforms that make the professional liability litigation system, medical legal jurisprudence in the U.S., more equitable, more predictable, and the kinds of reforms that are necessary to sustainably, actually bend the cost curve for American medicine.”

When asked about the need for reasonable limits on non-economic damages, Dr. Anderson explained the need for them even as insurance rates decrease, because the severity of the average claim has actually increased.

“Despite the fact that frequency has come down, severity has continued to go up, severity being the cost of the average claimant. And so, if you eliminate a cap on non-economic damages, you’re basically saying to the insurance industry you need to provide coverage for infinity… There has to be some rationality to the system.”

Having written extensively on defensive medicine and the need for physicians to protect themselves from meritless lawsuits, Dr. Anderson commented that “physicians feel justified in doing whatever they think is necessary to help keep them out of court.”

With the feeling in the physician community that the liability system is broken, Dr. Anderson emphasized the need to “get a medical-legal system in the U.S. that doesn’t end up targeting virtually every physician.”

To read Dr. Anderson’s interview with Modern Healthcare in full, click here.