Category Archives: District of Columbia

December 2017 Newsletter

Year-end report sheds light on “Judicial Hellholes” The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) end-of-year “Judicial Hellholes” report offers a public glimpse at the most unfriendly jurisdictions for those defending themselves against civil litigation, including medical liability lawsuits. At the top of the list this year was Florida, where once-strong medical liability reforms have been continuously rolled back at the expense of patients seeking affordable and accessible care. “This year, thanks to a state high court majority’s barely contained contempt for the policy-making authority of the legislative and executive branches of government, and a notoriously aggressive and sometimes lawless plaintiffs’ bar, Florida earns the ignominious #1 ranking among eight Judicial Hellholes…” said American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce. Also high on the list was St. Louis, where “antiquated rules have made it a favorite of personal-injury lawyers shopping for big-money verdicts” resulting in $300 million in awards since 2015. However, recent changes in state government, including a governor in support of changes to the liability system, do hold promise for much-needed reform in the coming year. To read more about ATRA’s “Judicial Hellholes” executive summary and report on the where physicians and defendants fare the worst when it comes to…

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Top cases show physicians had a forceful ally in the courts

One thing physicians from Florida to Hawaii had in common in 2017 was that the Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies had their backs. The Litigation Center was involved in legal battles that helped prevent an insurance mega-merger, protected physicians’ right to free speech, and fought back on multiple fronts against attempts to sidestep or peel back established state liability reforms. But it was a case involving the staff at a hospital in rural California that may have attracted the most attention. Case signaled threat to end medical staff independence in California. In Tulare Regional Medical Center Medical Staff v. Tulare Local Healthcare District et al, the Litigation Center provided significant legal and financial support after the hospital’s board of directors voted to terminate the medical staff organization, remove elected medical staff officers, install a slate of appointed officers and approve new medical staff bylaws and rules without staff input. “This case serves as an existential threat to independent hospital medical staffs,” said Long Do, California Medical Association (CMA) legal counsel and director of litigation. Just before closing arguments were scheduled in October, Tulare filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. As part the process, the hospital…

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Thune, Klobuchar Introduce Bill to Provide Licensure Clarity for Sports Medicine Professionals

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today introduced a bill clarifying that sports medicine professionals who travel outside their primary licensed state to provide care for the athletes will be covered by their medical malpractice insurance. Thune and Klobuchar’s bill, the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act, stipulates that health care services provided by a covered sports medicine professional to an athlete, athletic team, or staff member of an athlete or athletic team in a secondary state outside the state of licensure will be covered by the professional’s medical malpractice insurance provider. The bill removes questions about licensing jurisdiction and eliminates ambiguity about malpractice coverage when a provider is technically practicing out-of-state while treating a patient from the provider’s home state. “Sports medicine providers take on great professional and financial risk to treat injured athletes on the road,” said Thune. “While some states provide legal protection to shield these professionals from assuming the risk, many providers are still left with the decision of treating an injured athlete or accepting liability. I hope my colleagues will join us in supporting this common-sense legislation that helps deliver better care for traveling athletes while providing legal protections for…

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America’s Emergency Care Environment

For millions of Americans who experience sudden, serious illness or injury every year—and in the increasing scores of communities that must respond to disasters and mass casualty events—immediate access to quality emergency care is essential to saving life and limb. But the availability of that care is threatened by a wide range of factors, including shrinking capacity and an ever-increasing demand for services. Even as more and more Americans come to rely on emergency departments for their acute care needs, particularly aging and sick Boomers and people newly enrolled in Medicaid, such care will increasingly become harder to access. This national Report Card rates the overall environment in which the emergency care system operates with a near-failing grade of D+. This is a poorer grade than the one earned in 2009, a C-. Overall state rankings have changed since the 2009 Report Card, with the District of Columbia now ranking first and Wyoming ranking last in the nation. These findings are the result of a comprehensive and focused study of the emergency care environment nationwide and state-by-state. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) convened a blue-ribbon task force of experts to produce this third edition of a national report…

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Tommy Thompson: Repeal ‘Obamacare’ and deliver real market-driven reform

There is no greater example of government overreach and unrestrained liberalism than “Obamacare,” the president’s signature legislative initiative. It is so deeply flawed and such a clear and present threat to our economic stability that there is no way to fix it; it must be repealed entirely and replaced with market-based solutions that work. This past week, the U.S. Supreme Court placed the final decision regarding the future of “Obamacare” in the hands of Congress. As a U.S. senator, I will use every measure to ensure a vote for the full repeal of “Obamacare” will be priority No. 1 in the U.S. Senate. “Obamacare” is an unprecedented, budget-busting government takeover of one of the largest sectors of our economy. We need only to look at southern Europe to see the long-term results of government overreach and excessive control of major sectors of the economy. We are destined to follow in Europe’s path unless “Obamacare” is fully repealed and replaced with a market-based solution that relies on the efficiency and innovation of the private sector to solve our most pressing health care challenges. “Obamacare” isn’t the answer. But merely repealing bad policy is also not the answer. Our nation can afford…

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Innovation Stifled by Defensive Medicine

Washington Millions of dollars that could be used for innovation in health care delivery often are funneled toward medical liability costs, a panel representing private health systems told a Senate committee on May 23. The witnesses said boosting quality through innovative health system reforms would do a great deal to tamp down the defensive medicine practices that result from the heightened liability climate. “With the very visible impact and the efforts around the health system on quality and the pursuit of quality, my anticipation is that quality of care will go up and the whole issue around defensive medicine will become much more mitigated,” Richard Migliori, MD, executive vice president for health services for UnitedHealth Group, told the Senate Finance Committee. The hearing was held to address the progress of private-sector systems to reduce costs and improve quality, but the discussion quickly turned to defensive medicine. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R, Utah), the top Republican on the Finance panel and a former medical liability defense lawyer, asked the witnesses what they were spending to protect against medical liability. “What is the percentage of cost of doing business that’s caused by many of these suits? And how serious are they in your…

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Lobby Battle Over Loans for Lawsuits

WASHINGTON — Companies that advance money to plaintiffs involved in personal injury lawsuits are campaigning in state capitals for legislation making clear that their growing industry is not subject to usury limits on interest rates or other state laws that protect borrowers. Instead, the lawsuit lending companies want to adopt a separate and less rigorous set of protections. Since February, they have persuaded legislators in at least five states, including New York, to introduce bills based on the industry’s own proposals. The campaign is drawing strong opposition from chambers of commerce, insurance companies and others who worry that lawsuit loans encourage litigation by emboldening plaintiffs. These critics also argue that the bills would strip protections from borrowers. “They are coming in under the guise of accepting regulation when in fact what they are trying to do is to legalize lawsuit lending and to explicitly exempt themselves for consumer lending requirements,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of the Institute for Legal Reform, an arm of the United States Chamber of Commerce. These clashes reflect both the uncertain legal status of lawsuit lending and the growing debate over its social value: Should third-party investment in lawsuits be encouraged, tightly restricted or banned…

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Medical liability reform: The time for action is now

A message to all physicians from Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, chair of the AMA Board of Trustees. In the past few weeks, a lot of people in Washington have been talking about medical liability issues. This is a good thing, and I hope it means we are about to see significant and meaningful reform in this important area. Because I, for one, am very tired of practicing defensive medicine and constantly looking over my shoulder when I should be concentrating on what is best for my patients. This situation is also creating a bad climate for American medicine and costing our patients and the country a lot of money that doesn’t need to be spent. On Jan. 20, I testified before the House Judiciary Committee in one of the first hearings of the new Congress. In my testimony, I encouraged Congress to move forward. On Jan. 24, the American Medical Association was among those who announced support for a newly introduced bill: the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act of 2011. The bipartisan bill includes what sponsors Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD (R, Ga.), Rep. David Scott (D, Ga.) and Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Lamar Smith (R, Texas) say will…

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Gingrey, Smith, Scott Call on President to Support Medical Liability Reform

Washington – Senior Health Subcommittee Member Phil Gingrey, M.D. (R-Ga.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), and Congressman David Scott (D-Ga.) today introduced The HEALTH Act (H.R. 5), a bill that includes meaningful medical liability reforms to lower the cost of health care while strengthening the doctor-patient relationship. In introducing the bill, the members urged President Obama to consider medical malpractice reforms that have proved effective in reducing health care costs while maintaining a high quality of care. President Obama has previously said that he wants to work to “scale back the excessive defensive medicine … and shift to a system where we are providing better care, simply – rather than simply more treatment.” Congressman Gingrey: “The HEALTH Act’s proven reforms will make medical malpractice insurance affordable again, encourage health care practitioners to maintain their practices, reduce health care costs for patients, and save billions of dollars a year in federal taxpayer dollars by reducing the need for ‘defensive medicine.’ It is an effective way to stop wasteful spending within our health care system, while ensuring better outcomes for patients.” “As Co-Chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus and with over 30 years of experience as a physician, I know…

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Health Groups Praise Second Bipartisan Debt Reduction Plan To Include Medical Liability Reform

WASHINGTON, DC – The Health Coalition on Liability and Access today praised the release of a second debt reduction plan to include proven medical liability reforms, such as reasonable limits on non-economic damages. The broad coalition of health groups is pleased that there is continued bipartisan recognition that these reforms will help reduce health care costs. “The HCLA applauds the work of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force for recognizing the need for medical liability reform,” HCLA Chair Mike Stinson said. “This is the second set of policy recommendations in as many weeks to underscore the role of reasonable limits on non-economic damages in reducing health care costs, and our national debt,” Stinson added. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force today released a report titled Restoring America’s Future. Chairing the study was former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici and econo-mist and former CBO Director Dr. Alice Rivlin. The bipartisan study put the cost savings of restraining total health care costs at $756 billion through 2020, partly due to limits on noneconomic and punitive damages in medical liability cases. While estimates of the true cost savings from liability reform vary, a conservative study in September’s Health Affairs…

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