Category Archives: Arkansas

June 2018 Newsletter

Liability reform empowers physicians to avoid defensive medicine While evidence strongly suggests that the potential for liability lawsuits results in treatments and tests that may not be otherwise necessary, new data shows that medical liability reform may be empowering physicians to go on the offensive together with their patients. A newly published analysis compared diagnosis and treatment patterns in patients suspected of having coronary artery disease between states where liability reforms have been adopted and states without non-economic damage limits in place. The study included 36,647 physicians in nine states with reasonable limits adopted between 2003 and 2005, and 39,154 in states that had not taken any action to utilize limits on non-economic damages to rein in lawsuits. Physicians in states with reasonable liability limits were less prone to rely on angiography as a first diagnostic test and more likely to order noninvasive stress testing, the report found. In addition, fewer patients were referred for angiography following initial stress testing. These physicians also performed fewer percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) procedures after ischemic evaluation, with indications that these patients were offered medical therapy as an alternative. “Our study suggests that physicians who face lower malpractice risk may be less concerned with…

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Op-ed urges Arkansans to make informed choices on liability ballot measure

In 1987 I had a baby girl in Houston, Texas. She was born a month early, and despite complications, she was delivered at a little over five pounds. We were lucky at that time because we lived in Houston, home of one of the greatest medical centers in the world. But Texas had a problem. Texas had a doctor shortage, especially in high-risk services such as labor and delivery, neurosurgery and trauma. More than 150 counties had no local obstetrics care, and services were sometimes more than 100 miles away. Physicians were leaving Texas for states that were less litigious or they were quitting medical practice altogether. By 2003 the exodus of doctors was such a crisis the state of Texas initiated, and passed, tort reform to rein in the cost of practicing medicine. The landmark reforms created an almost immediate turnaround, starting with pediatric subspecialties increasing 300 percent in the following 10 years. Emergency doctors in rural areas increased 64 percent, more than 10 times the growth in those areas. Thirty-five rural counties added at least one OB-GYN, almost half of which never had one. You can find similar stories in more than 30 states that have implemented tort…

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April 2018 Newsletter

Improving patient care by removing threat of lawsuits In an effort to better understand the impact that medical lawsuit abuse has on health care providers, a recent study granted immunity from liability lawsuits to practicing physicians – and studied the after affects. Over the course of six years, 900 clinically active employed physicians at Jackson Memorial Hospital, part of the University of Miami, could be deemed agents of JMH and received the protections of sovereign immunity when they were providing medical care at a JMH facility. Not only was there no negative impact on patient safety, but the number of harmful events decreased by 13 percent over a four-year period. “This study suggests that without the threat of malpractice lawsuits, physicians are still committed to delivering the safest, highest quality patient care possible,” said Dr. David A. Lubarsky, chief medical and systems integration officer at the University of Miami Health System and the study’s lead author. The immunity offered physicians an opportunity to treat patients without the threat of liability lawsuits, reducing the incentive to practice defensive medicine. “An effective liability system should offer incentives to institutions that adopt safer systems,” Dr. Lubarsky said, citing better patient data sharing, education,…

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Legal reform advocates point to medical malpractice figures in New York, Pennsylvania

ALBANY, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) – Experts who have watched medical malpractice lawsuits skyrocket in states like New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey say lawmakers have made it too easy and attractive to sue and reform must happen. “New Yorkers once again pay more for medical liability than anywhere in America,” Tom Stebbins, executive director of Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York told Legal Newsline. “Sadly, Albany recently made matters worse by approving legislation that expands liability and makes it easier to file lawsuits.” The “2018 Medical Malpractice Payout Analysis” released March 1 by Diederich Health Care, a medical liability insurance and consulting company based in Carbondale, Illinois, includes figures comparing medical malpractice rates among states. Among Northeast states, New York topped the list for the most malpractice cases with a total approximate $617,973,000 in payouts with Pennsylvania second at $342,093,300, and New Jersey third with $267,913,250. The lowest in the Northeast were the District of Columbia with $11,498,500, Delaware with $8,253,250 and Vermont at the bottom with $1,536,500. Among Midwestern states, Illinois was far in the lead with $300,790,050 in payouts with Michigan second at $77,072,200. The lowest Midwestern states were Wisconsin at $13,527,100, North Dakota with $3,505,000 and…

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October 2017 Newsletter

Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling could lead to medical lawsuit abuse Patients and physicians in Oklahoma could face a deteriorating liability climate in the coming years, as the state Supreme Court recently ruled against an effective liability reform. This setback to accessible and affordable care is the third time the Supreme Court has ruled against a certificate of merit requirement, following several revisions to past legislation which had also been invalidated by the Court. The latest version of the reforms included expanding the scope of expert witness affidavits to include all civil negligence actions which required testimony by an expert, following previous rulings that the law put a higher burden on victims of professional negligence than victims of general negligence. “We believe the certificate of merit has been an important legal reform that helped prevent baseless lawsuits, and we will look carefully at our options and next steps to address today’s ruling,” said Wes Glinsmann, executive director of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. Without an umbrella of federal reforms, medical liability at the state level has too often been a game of one step forward, two steps back, as reforms are passed and then continuously challenged by the personal injury lobby….

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Arkansans for Jobs and Justice Launches Campaign for Real Tort Reform in Arkansas

A coalition representing a diverse group of Arkansans has joined together to support commonsense reforms that will help make Arkansas more competitive with surrounding states and protect everyday Arkansans. Paperwork was filed today for Arkansans for Jobs and Justice to advocate for the passage of SJR8. The committee will be anchored by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce with leadership from the Arkansas Medical Society, The Poultry Federation, Arkansas Health Care Association and Arkansas Trucking Association. “It’s time to once again level the playing field in Arkansas with commonsense reforms that strike a balance between protecting the rights of everyday Arkansans while creating an environment of economic growth and job creation in Arkansas,” said Randy Zook, President of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. “Unfortunately, the progress made on tort reform in 2003 has been stripped away, piece by piece, over the last 14 years by the Arkansas Supreme Court, making a constitutional amendment necessary. The passage of SJR8 by the voters of Arkansas will make Arkansas more competitive with surrounding states while still protecting the right to a jury trial and damages.” The legislative effort for the tort reform measure passed in 2003 was led by the Arkansas Medical…

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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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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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August 2016 Newsletter

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…

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Government Policies May Drive Doctor Shortages in Unhealthiest States

State medical boards, government-protected monopolies, and jackpot juries could be keeping doctors out of Arkansas and Mississippi. Two of the country’s unhealthiest populations live in states experiencing extreme doctor shortages, according to reports by two organizations ranking patient health and patient care among the states. The United States will have a shortage of 94,700 physicians by 2025, an analysis conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) found in May 2016. The dearth of health care providers is most prominent in rural states with widely dispersed populations, such as in many parts of the Southeast, according to the 2015 State Physician Workforce Databook, an AAMC study. Mississippi has the nation’s lowest ratio of doctors to population, at 184.7 per 100,000 people, the study found. Arkansas is fifth from the bottom, at 198.1 per 100,000 people. Mississippi and Arkansas are the 49th and 48th healthiest states, respectively, among a cluster of Southeastern states ranked among the least healthy by the United Health Foundation’s 2015 America’s Health Rankings Annual Report. Others are Louisiana (50), Alabama (46), Kentucky (44), Tennessee (43), and South Carolina (42). State Board May Squash Growth Jameson Taylor, vice president for policy at the Mississippi Center for Public…

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