Category Archives: California

July 2020 Newsletter

Senate stimulus bill introduced with COVID-19 liability protections A second economic stimulus bill introduced in the U.S. Senate this week (S. 4317, the “Safeguarding America’s Frontline Employees To Offer Work Opportunities Required to Kickstart the Economy Act” or the “SAFE TO WORK Act”) incorporates important liability protections for frontline medical providers and facilities. The issue has remained unresolved at the federal level since the start of the pandemic. This is of particular concern given the national nature of the crisis and the lack or inadequacy of sufficient state-level protections. Language in the bill creates an exclusive federal cause of action for injuries resulting from the treatment, diagnosis, or care of coronavirus, or care directly affected by the coronavirus. In addition, the bill preserves state laws which provide even greater levels of protection for our frontline healthcare professionals. The HCLA has also supported a bipartisan standalone bill, H.R. 7059, that addresses the legal vulnerabilities faced by healthcare providers as a result of the pandemic. Both H.R. 7059 and S. 4317 appropriately exclude liability protections in situations of gross negligence or willful misconduct. Speaking in support of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated, “Nobody should have to face an epidemic…

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MICRA initiative qualifies for 2022 ballot

SOURCE: California Dental Association An initiative that would substantially raise health care costs for all Californians, reduce access to health care and harm patients most in need has qualified for the 2022 ballot. The measure would significantly alter MICRA, California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act law, by eliminating medical lawsuit limits, creating a new, broadly defined and dangerous category of malpractice lawsuits and enabling new substantial financial windfalls for California’s trial lawyers. Along with a coalition of other health care providers, insurers and hospitals, CDA and TDIC are deeply committed to defeating this initiative. Californians to Protect Patients and Contain Health Care Costs, a coalition of physicians, dentists and health care providers, issued the following statement: “It’s unfortunate that while California’s health providers are courageously working on the front lines of this pandemic, a few opportunistic trial lawyers have remained focused on a ballot measure that would substantially increase the burden on California’s doctors and clinics while inflating health care costs for everyone. Whether it’s 2020 or 2022, any ballot measure that reduces access to health care and increases costs for all Californians is bad medicine.” In anticipation of the initiative’s qualification, CDA’s Board of Trustees approved an initial $1…

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May 2020 Newsletter

HCLA presses Congress to pass COVID-19 liability protections As the need for federal action in support of pandemic responders builds, the Health Coalition on Liability and Access is taking an active role in pressing Capitol Hill on the importance of incorporating these protections in future COVID-19 legislation. Emphasizing the bipartisan support for passing a form of liability shield during the pandemic, HCLA Vice-Chair Katie Orrico spoke to the Northern California Record about work being done by the organization behind the scenes to ensure these protections are broad enough to be effective. “To the idea that something does in fact need to happen, there has been a bipartisan willingness to entertain that, so ultimately the question will come down to how broad are those protections,” said Orrico. Most recently, the group submitted a statement for the record to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary ahead of a hearing on the matter. Senate Republican leaders have been vocal about their approach. “[COVID-19 liability reforms] will extend significant new protections to the people who have been on the front lines of the response and those who will be on the front lines of the re-opening,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Both…

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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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October 2019 Newsletter

Alarming rise in premiums highlighted in Medical Liability Monitor The annual Medical Liability Monitor rate survey highlighted a rate increase, not seen in over a decade, and shed light on how the future of liability rates could begin sounding industry alarms. The 2019 Medical Liability Monitor Annual Rate Survey, for the first time since 2006, found that more than 25 percent of medical professional liability (MPL) premium rates increased, while only five percent of rates went down. The overall rate increase year over year was approximately 0.8 percent. The uptick led analysts to study whether or not the conditions exist for a repeat of the cost crisis that occurred in the mid-2000s, with annual rate increases averaging between 10 and 30 percent. Notably, rate increases for general surgery were found to be greater than the average increases. Guest editors of the survey edition, Bill Burns and Alyssa Gittleman from the Insurance Research Department of the global investment management firm Conning, did a deeper dive into the results. According to a press release issued by the Medical Liability Monitor, Gittleman and Burns “compared current market conditions to those which preceded the last hard market. They note similarities between the two in…

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Physicians increasingly face “hybrid” medical liability claims

SOURCE: American Medical Association California physicians are increasingly facing “hybrid” lawsuits alleging professional negligence as well as medical battery from plaintiffs who want to avoid the state’s long-standing $250,000 limit on what juries can award for noneconomic damages in medical liability cases. A jury recently awarded $22,246 in economic damages and $9.25 million in past and future noneconomic damages to a plaintiff who tried this approach, with the court refusing to apply limits set in California’s Medical Injury Tort Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). The physician defendant is appealing the ruling and the Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies joined with the California Medical Association and two other groups to file an amicus brief urging the appellate court to apply the law’s $250,000 cap. That should be done because the plaintiff’s claims were based on the same set of facts for a single act by a single surgeon—facts that wholly fit within MICRA’s “professional negligence” definition. The brief filed in the Court of Appeal of the State of California, 4th Appellate District, Division Two, cites more than a dozen published appellate decisions where plaintiffs pursued hybrid claims, noting many unpublished decisions as well. “The result, when…

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September 2019 Newsletter

Longer statutes of limitation could invite in lawsuit abuse A challenge to Kentucky’s longstanding statute of limitations on medical liability lawsuit filings could open the door for additional litigation – and medical lawsuit abuse. A case is currently pending before the Supreme Court of Kentucky, seeking permission for a lawsuit to continue outside the statute of limitations under a narrow doctrine intended to apply in situations where continuous care is provided after an instance of negligence. In this case, the plaintiff is challenging that the statute of limitations should be waived anytime a patient is receiving follow up care from any health care provider at the same institution. Ruling in support of expanding that window would have negative repercussions. The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies, along with the Kentucky Medical Association, filed an amicus brief with the court. The brief detailed the effect overturning current law would have in permitting patients with lifelong conditions such as diabetes or asthma who receive continuous follow up care to be able to file lawsuits indefinitely. “Such a result would destroy the predictability and certainty essential to the ‘peace and welfare of society’ that the General Assembly sought…

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Coalition launches MICRA ballot initiative with backing from wealthy trial lawyer

SOURCE: POLITICO SACRAMENTO — A deep-pocketed lawyer and a coalition led by Consumer Watchdog are launching a November 2020 ballot initiative that would multiply the amount medical negligence victims stand to receive in court, potentially resurrecting a political dogfight involving attorneys, hospitals and doctors. Opponents of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, passed in 1975, are seeking to pass a November 2020 ballot initiative that would index the legal payout cap for inflation — initially raising it to $1.2 million for people injured as a result of what’s referred to as “non-economic” damages such as pain and suffering, loss of limbs or hearing and wrongful death, according to a document obtained by POLITICO. The coalition estimates it will need $4 million to gather signatures and qualify the initiative. The effort comes nearly five years after another MICRA initiative was roundly defeated amid opposition from major health industry groups. Three initiative filers said they’re getting involved because they’ve been personally affected by the cap and are expected to submit the “Fairness for Injured Parents Act” Thursday. Trial lawyer Nick Rowley said the lungs of his own infant son were “blown up” as a result of medical malpractice. He told POLITICO he…

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