Category Archives: National

December 2018 Newsletter

An opinion on collateral source reform in Florida A recent op-ed by a former Florida legislator highlighted the dysfunction in the state’s liability system, including how the lack of collateral source reform in medical liability cases has led to inflated and unnecessary costs. Don Brown, previously a representative in the Florida House, weighed in on Florida’s recent number two position on American Tort Reform Association’s “Judicial Hellholes” list – and on one of the driving factors of increased liability across the state. “These inflated costs are exacerbated by the fact that Florida prohibits juries from seeing the payments made to plaintiffs by outside parties such as insurance companies,” Brown wrote. The issue at hand is the collateral source rule, where a defendant is prohibited from introducing in court any evidence of payments received by the plaintiff, from sources other than the defendant, which might remedy some of the plaintiff’s economic losses. The result is double recovery of damages by plaintiffs since both the defendant and another party, such as an insurance company, pay for the same loss. “The first, and most obvious solution, is to allow juries to see any outside compensation received by the plaintiff for treatment,” Brown suggested….

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“Judicial Hellholes” 2018/2019 Executive Summary

SOURCE: Judicial Hellholes The 2018 – 2019 Judicial Hellholes report shines its brightest spotlight on nine jurisdictions, courts or legislatures that have earned reputations as Judicial Hellholes. Some are known for welcoming litigation tourism or as hotbeds for asbestos litigation, and in all of them state leadership seems eager to expand civil liability. A recent study released by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform highlights both the overall cost and inefficiencies of the tort system. The report states that the cost and compensation paid in the U.S. tort system totaled $429 billion in 2016, accounting for 2.3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. The 2018-2019 Judicial Hellholes jurisdictions largely contributed to these costs, and on a local level, they saw job loss, personal income loss, and state revenue loss due to the excessive tort costs in the states. The data clearly demonstrate the need for a more balanced civil justice system. #1 CALIFORNIA A perennial Judicial Hellhole, California has once again regained its position atop the Judicial Hellholes list due to the propensity of California judges and legislators to extend liability at almost every given opportunity. California courts have adopted novel theories of liability and unique California laws…

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November 2018 Newsletter

Arkansas court ruling prevents counting medical liability votes Progress on liability reform in Arkansas hit a snag this fall, as a court ruling ahead of November elections hurt efforts for reforms to move forward. Medical liability reforms championed by Arkansas for Jobs and Justice, including limits on attorneys fees and reasonable caps on non-economic damages, were slated to appear on the November ballot as Issue 1. Initial circuit court challenges to the legitimacy of the ballot question due to the state’s single-subject test were appealed, but ultimately upheld by the state Supreme Court. Although the question still appeared on the ballot, the vote totals were not counted. While vote counts for some counties were released under a Freedom of Information Act request, Carl Vogelphol, campaign manager for Issue 1 proponent Arkansans for Jobs and Justice, said it was hard to know if the issue would have passed or not, but that “we were seeing internal data when the electorate was educated they would’ve voted for it.” To read more about the setback for Arkansas access to care, click here. Kentucky courts remove checks on liability lawsuit merits Legislation passed in 2017 that put in place a plan to ensure the…

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Cardiology malpractice suits up 91% from a decade ago

SOURCE: Cardiovascular Business – https://www.cardiovascularbusiness.com/topics/healthcare-economics/cardiology-malpractice-suits-91-2006 Rates of malpractice lawsuits in cardiology have followed a slow upward trajectory for the past decade and are continuing to climb, according to a review of more than 1,500 liability claims published in the American Journal of Cardiology this week. Frances Wang, MS, and Sandeep K. Krishnan, MD, conducted an analysis of 1,538 cardiology malpractice claims filed between 2006 and 2015 in an effort to characterize current malpractice trends and common sources of patient injury in the field. With the rise of “defensive medicine”—the idea that physicians treat their patients to avoid liability suits rather than provide the most beneficial care—the authors said the quality of healthcare in the U.S. is declining. Wang and Krishnan said defensive medicine is likely a driver behind the steady growth in average physician malpractice payments in recent years, which has followed the national trend of rising healthcare costs. “With increasing healthcare costs and the high cost of spending driven by defensive medicine, shedding light on recent litigation trends is critical for understanding current tort patterns, especially in the field of cardiology, a specialty with higher rates of malpractice suits than average,” the authors wrote in AJC. “Understanding the characteristics…

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SIDM Applauds Increased Federal Research Funding for Diagnostic Error

SOURCE: Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) – https://www.improvediagnosis.org/news/420714/SIDM-Applauds-Increased-Federal-Research-Funding-for-Diagnostic-Error.htm The FY 2019 spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services that was signed into law last week included $2 million in new funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) “to support grants to address diagnostic errors” and explore the process of establishing Centers for Diagnostic Excellence. The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) believes this additional funding is important to develop specific approaches to reducing harm caused from diagnostic error and improve diagnostic quality and safety. “In 2015, the National Academies of Medicine declared that ‘improving the diagnostic process is not only possible, but it also represents a moral, professional, and public health imperative.’ Estimates are that 40,000 to 80,000 people die every year in hospitals as a result of wrong or delayed diagnosis,” said Paul Epner, SIDM’s Chief Executive Officer. “We know a lot about the major contributors to diagnostic errors that cause the most harm. At the same time, we need to support research efforts to learn more and to bring what we do know to scale.” Research on systems and methods to improve diagnosis is the most under-recognized and underfunded…

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Medical Liability Monitor’s 2018 Annual Rate Survey Indicates the Medical Professional Liability Insurance Industry Could Be Turning Away From Stability

SOURCE: Cision PRWeb – https://www.prweb.com/releases/medical_liability_monitors_2018_annual_rate_survey_indicates_the_medical_professional_liability_insurance_industry_could_be_turning_away_from_stability/prweb15817320.htm According to just-released data from the 2018 Medical Liability Monitor Annual Rate Survey, the medical professional liability (medical malpractice) insurance industry could be turning away from its decade-plus of general stability. Since 2005, the key word used to characterize the medical professional liability insurance industry has been “stable.” But in 2018, there are several issues suggesting there are more environmental challenges for the industry than have been observed during the last decade. Some industry observers note that these factors signal that the industry may have started to turn a corner. Major factors challenging the MPL insurance industry include the deterioration of the industry’s combined ratio, an increasing number of high-severity claims and the decline in aggregate MPL industry premium with its compounding effect on the combined ratio. The medical professional liability insurance industry’s combined ratio has been creeping upward from a record-low of 80 percent in 2008. For 2017, the combined ratio exceeded 100 percent for the second year in a row — only the second time exceeding 100 percent since 2005. The increasing combined ratio has been driven by a number of factors, but the largest has been the erosion of favorable reserve development….

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Why Doctor Malpractice Premiums Stopped Rising

SOURCE: Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2018/10/10/why-doctor-malpractice-premiums-stopped-rising/#410fa8031517 Physician medical malpractice premiums remain flat, continuing a decade-long run of little to no rate increases, new reports show. Doctors continue to be spared medical malpractice coverage rate increases even as the U.S. medical professional liability insurance sector experiences underwriting losses for the second year in a row, putting “more scrutiny around shrinking reserves,” Fitch Ratings says in its annual report on medical professional liability insurance. But such pressure that also includes plummeting premium revenue hasn’t been enough to force these carriers into jacking up rates, which have been largely stable for more than 10 years. “As far as medical liability goes, it really is a great time to be practicing medicine,” Medical Liability Monitor Editor Mike Matray says. “Medical liability insurance is often the single most expensive cost of doing business for physicians. At the same time, medical malpractice insurance premiums have been decreasing or flat for more than a decade and malpractice claims frequency is at an historic low.” Industry consolidation, well-capitalized carriers and the shift to outpatient care and telehealth are also among the factors keeping premiums from rising, these new reports show. “Many other commercial insurance market segments, particularly property and auto…

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February 2018 Newsletter

Show me liability reform A recent push for liability reform in Missouri could show patients how a reduction in medical lawsuit abuse can improve access to care across the states. Building on Governor Greitens’ emphasis on the need for changes to the state’s liability system, a new bill would bring an efficient resolution to those with legitimate claims. The latest bill, introduced by State Senator Dan Hegeman, allows physicians to address claims promptly by redefining the statute of limitations to three years. “Missouri has not amended the five-year statute since 1939,” Hegeman told the Senate government reform committee. “While five years may have made sense in an age when transportation and communication were more challenging, there is no reason today for an injured person to need so much time to file the action.” The shorter statute of limitations gives physicians peace of mind that any claims of negligence are addressed quickly, and deserving patients benefit from a system that better separates meritless lawsuits from rightful claims for damages. To read more about Missouri’s efforts to further reform their liability system for patients and physicians, click here. Sweeping changes to liability system would bring benefits to Kentucky Initiating legislation that would…

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January 2018 Newsletter

Medical organizations paving the way for Senate consideration of liability reform Following House passage of comprehensive medical liability reform in 2017, medical organizations representing patients and physicians, including the HCLA, have taken a leading role in aiming their efforts at Senate consideration of the legislation. With a goal of reducing medical lawsuit abuse and enacting federal reforms that eliminate inconsistent and ever-changing state liability laws, specialty physician organizations and health care coalitions have emphasized the need to move forward on reform. Citing a need to compensate those patients who are truly the victims of medical negligence, American Association of Family Practitioners president Michael Munger, MD emphasized that reform is needed because “too much money is diverted from patient care to liability insurance premiums and the legal fees that are part of a lawsuit.” The bill under consideration relies on a history of success among states with the climate to enact such positive reforms. “This legislation adopts many of the reforms which have been thoroughly tested in the states and which have proven successful in improving the medical liability climate in those states,” stated the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons, also an HCLA member,…

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AMA Studies Show Continued Cost Burden of Medical Liability System

The American Medical Association (AMA) today released a new series of trend reports in its Policy Research Perspective series illustrating the price Americans pay for the nation’s broken medical liability system. “Information in this new research paints a bleak picture of physicians’ experiences with medical liability claims and the associated cost burdens on the health system,” said AMA President David O. Barbe, M.D., M.H.A. “The reports validate the fact that preserving quality and access in medicine, while reducing cost, requires fairness in the civil justice system. Every dollar spent on the broken medical liability system is a dollar that cannot be used to improve patient care.” The first report analyzes medical liability claims frequency among patient care physicians in the U.S. and finds that getting sued is virtually a matter of when, not if, for physicians. Highlights in the report include: Getting sued is not an uncommon event for physicians. More than a third of physicians (34 percent) have had a claim filed against them at some point in their careers. Because older physicians have been in practice for a longer time and thus have had more exposure, the probability of getting sued increases with age. Nearly half (49.2 percent) of physicians…

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