Category Archives: National

April 2017 Newsletter

  Medical liability reform – an issue of Price With Tom Price at the helm of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Congress likely to make systematic health care changes, chances for medical liability reform are stronger than ever.  So say several experts in the field. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, noted medical liability system scholars Michelle M. Mello, J.D., Ph.D., Allen Kachalia, M.D., J.D., and David M. Studdert, LL.B., Sc.D convey their opinions on the opportunities that lie ahead for proponents of medical liability reform with Secretary Price as an advocate. Citing medical liability in his confirmation hearings, as “a really difficult challenge,” Secretary Price has long been a champion of reforms that reduce medical lawsuit abuse. Acknowledging that “the liability system has well-documented problems, and its reform was omitted from the Affordable Care Act,” the authors support a way forward in the near term. While the current liability system is no longer at the precipice of crisis, Mello, Kachalia, and Studdert agree that “a period of calm in liability insurance markets is the best time to proceed with sensible reform.” The deck is stacked in support of reasonable limits on non-economic damages, with…

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Medical Liability – Prospect for Federal Reform

Medical malpractice reform appears to be back on the federal policy agenda. The appointment of Tom Price, a long-time proponent of tort reform, as secretary of health and human services, in conjunction with Republican control of both houses of Congress, has created fertile conditions for several Republican proposals that have languished for years without the requisite support. Although it has been debated many times, a major federal foray into medical liability, a state-based area of law, would be unprecedented. The prospect raises several questions: Which reforms are on the table? Would they be effective? And is the time right? Although Price has not announced any specific proposals since his nomination, “lawsuit abuse” has long been an important issue to him. During his confirmation hearings, he described medical liability as “a really difficult challenge” and noted that there were “some exciting opportunities out there.” While serving in the House of Representatives, Price (R-GA) sponsored several bills aimed at limiting health care providers’ liability, most recently H.R. 2300 in 2015. Key elements of these bills are represented in H.R. 277, introduced by other House Republicans on January 4, 2017; H.R. 1215, introduced on February 24, 2017, by Representative Steve King (R-IA); and…

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March 2017 Newsletter

  New Congress makes early efforts in support of medical liability reform Just over a month after a new Congress and President were in position, medical liability reform appeared at the top of their agenda as two comprehensive bills were introduced. In late February, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Protecting Access to Care Act, a comprehensive medical liability reform bill introduced by Representative Steve King (R-IA). The Protecting Access to Care Act, H.R. 1215, is modeled after proven reforms already in place in Texas, California, and many other states around the country that have had a positive effect on increasing patient access to care and keeping health care costs affordable for patients and physicians. More recently introduced is the ACCESS (Accessible Care by Curbing Excessive lawSuitS) Act, H.R. 1704, which adds to the gaining momentum for liability reform in the House. President Trump has also expressed his support for medical liability reforms in his address to a Joint Session of Congress. “…We should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance,” President Trump stated. “The HCLA is pleased that the House of Representatives and President Trump recognize the need…

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Iowa Senate Advances Bill To Discourage Med Mal Suits

The Iowa Senate on Monday approved a tort reform bill that would cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases at $250,000 and require injured patients to obtain a “certificate of merit” from a medical expert before filing suit. S.F. 465 passed the Iowa Legislature’s upper house in a 28-21 vote that was split along party lines, with 28 Republicans voting to approve the proposed legislation and 20 Democrats and one independent senator voting no. If approved, the bill would impose a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering, similar to a federal bill recently floated by Republicans in Congress. In addition, the bill would require medical malpractice plaintiffs to file a certificate of merit — essentially an expert opinion vouching for the validity of the claims — which is designed to weed out and discourage frivolous lawsuits. The bill would also make certain statements made by doctors to patients regarding adverse medical incidents inadmissible in court, and would tighten the requirements as to who can qualify as an expert medical witness. During floor debate on Monday, a Republican proponent of the bill, state Sen. Charles Schneider of West Des Moines, said that the proposed legislation would help…

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Bill to change medical professional liabilities law passes state Senate

A bill that would change current state medical professional liabilities law has passed the state Senate. Senate Bill 338 would requires lawsuits against long-term care providers to be brought in the county in which the facility is located. Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, is the sponsor of the bill. It has been sent to the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee. “Currently, most of the cases are brought in Kanawha County because corporate headquarters are in Charleston or because a company has a facility in Kanawha County,” said Patrick Kelly, CEO of the West Virginia Health Care Association. “If the bill passes, the people who know the facility best, local citizens, will hear the cases. “What’s happening now is that some of the facilities have a corporate office in Charleston, so if you have a case in the Northern or Eastern Panhandle, those folks have to leave their facility to come to Kanawha County. You can’t take an administrator or nurses out of the building for a long period of time.” The bill also would define occurrence as “any and all injuries to a patient arising from health care rendered by a healthcare facility or a healthcare provider and includes…

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Lawmakers seek to cap damages in medical malpractice cases

Doctors who worry about medical malpractice lawsuits would get major relief under legislation that was approved by a House committee Tuesday and that would make it harder for patients to come after their money. The legislation, approved by the House Judiciary Committee in an 18-17 vote, would cap damages that can be paid by doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes. (Many states already limit awards paid by individual providers.) It would cover individuals who are insured under Medicare, Medicaid, veterans or military health plans, and the Affordable Care Act, and could also impact people covered under COBRA or health savings plans. In introducing the measure, Iowa Republican Representative Steve King referred to airlines, which, he said, “throw blame out the window” after an accident, and instead focus on how to prevent it from happening again. His comment enraged several Democrats, who accused King of favoring the economic interests of health care providers over malpractice victims — and of showing a lack of basic knowledge about law. “We cast blame,” said Florida Democratic Representative Ted Deutch. “That’s how the justice system works.” Lobbyists for medical professionals were delighted with the legislation. “Instead of being able to focus on their patients, more and more doctors…

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GOP Again Proposes Malpractice Tort Reform, With a Twist

Over the past 20 years, House Republicans repeatedly have passed malpractice tort reform that caps non-economic damages at $250,000, only to be stymied by Senate Democrats who view such measures as an intrusion on a plaintiff’s right to his or her day in court. Today, the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee narrowly approved another such medical liability bill, but one with a twist. The reforms would apply to malpractice suits in which the plaintiff received healthcare covered through a federal program, subsidy, or tax benefit. In other words, healthcare provided under Medicare, Medicaid, or private health plans subsidized by the Affordable Care Act. For that matter, the bill also would govern litigation involving services paid for by employer-sponsored health plans, because premiums enjoy federal tax exemption. Bill supporters contend that if the federal government is shelling out billions of dollars for healthcare, Congress should ensure that it’s getting the most bang for the taxpayer buck. The cap on non-economic, or pain and suffering, damages as well as other reforms in the bill, the argument goes, will deter frivolous malpractice suits, relieve physicians of the pressure to practice defensive medicine, lower malpractice insurance premiums, and increase access to healthcare. Bill supporters point…

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February 2017 Newsletter

  Act NOW for Medical Liability Reform – New Federal Bill Introduced Our grassroots network has been activated to generate support for the Protecting Access to Care Act (H.R. 1215), a new federal bill introduced last Friday that is based on proven state medical liability reforms and which will tackle health care costs that are rising as a result of a broken system. The Protecting Access to Care Act, introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), includes well-known, traditional reforms that ensure full and unlimited recovery of economic damages, allowing for payment of past and future medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and other out of pocket expenses.  The legislation also permits the additional recovery of up to $250,000 for non-economic damages, such as damages awarded for pain and suffering. The bill will be considered by the House Judiciary Committee TOMORROW (Tuesday). Click here to get contact information for committee members and express your support of this critical legislation. The Protecting Access to Care Act also includes a reasonable statute of limitations for filing lawsuits and limits attorney fees, allowing for speedier resolution of claims, and ensuring that damage awards go to deserving patients – not personal injury lawyers. It also…

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Scope of practice should set limits on medical liability testimony

Which medical professionals are qualified to provide medical causation testimony before a court? In Frausto v. Yakima HMA, the Supreme Court of Washington will determine whether an advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) is qualified to testify as to the causation of a patient’s medical condition. Rudy Frausto, a quadriplegic, presented to Yakima Regional Medical Center with symptoms of general body weakness, influenza and pneumonia. He was treated for 10 days and, during that time, developed decubitus ulcers. Frausto sued the hospital for medical malpractice. To support his claim, Frausto offered an affidavit from Karen Wilkinson, an ARNP. Wilkinson’s affidavit stated that the hospital had failed to provide Frausto with proper bedding, skin assessments and other care and had thus caused the bed sores. A trial court noted that Wilkinson had practiced as a licensed nurse for more than 26 years, had taught other nurses and had extensive experience as a staff nurse. The court held that she was qualified to testify as to the standard of care. But the court also held that Wilkinson, as a nurse, was unqualified to testify about medical causation. Frausto appealed to the Supreme Court of Washington. “The ability to testify accurately regarding causation is…

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Tort Reform Introduced in Iowa Legislature

On Monday, both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees introduced bills on tort reform HSB 105  and SSB 1087  This IMS-crafted tort reform package represents the most comprehensive reforms to Iowa’s medical liability system in more than a generation and marks the culmination of years of work by numerous physician leaders throughout our state. Watch for updates in the IMS Advocate. The bill would enact the following: $250,000 Cap on Noneconomic Damages Strengthened Expert Witness Standards Certificate of Merit in All Suits Affirmative Defense for Evidence-Based Medicine Limiting Contingency Fee Arrangements Expanding Candor A Brief History of Tort Reform in Iowa In 2004, IMS championed the passage of a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages, which was ultimately vetoed by then-Governor Vilsack. In the wake of this setback, IMS redoubled its efforts, devoting significant time and resources into developing additional reform proposals to help improve our liability climate. In 2011, IMS-crafted Certificate of Merit legislation passed the Iowa House but failed to pass the Democratically-controlled Iowa Senate. 2013 also saw significant House action on an IMS-crafted tort reform package that included a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages and a Certificate of Merit requirement. After the legislature again failed to enact meaningful reforms that…

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