Category Archives: New Mexico

June 2019 Newsletter

Lifting liability limits in New Mexico could take medical system from bad to worse Already ranking two spots from the bottom on access to health care when compared to all U.S. states, New Mexico patients now face another obstacle if personal injury attorneys have their way. Challenges stemming from a rural landscape, an aging population, and low physician pay influencing recruitment already make it difficult for patients to access affordable health care. Making things worse is an attempt to raise reasonable limits on non-economic damages to $2 million for individual physicians and $25 million for medical entities, which includes many small practices. Michael Kaufman, MD, of Taos Medical Group, who has practiced internal medicine in Taos for more than 40 years, expressed what many fellow practitioners were feeling: “If this goes through, we’re out of here.” Dr. Kaufman cited an impossible operating environment for a four-physician, three-nurse practitioner practice due to higher insurance premiums required to remain covered under an increased limit. While the measure was defeated – for now – due to overwhelming opposition by the healthcare community demonstrating their concern for their patients’ access to healthcare, it remains likely to be introduced again in the future. Click here…

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New Mexico damage cap increase threatens patient care access

SOURCE: Las Cruces Sun News New Mexico ranks 48th out of 50 states for access to healthcare. Various factors restrict New Mexicans’ access to care, including the rural nature of much of the state, an aging patient population needing more appointments, a large portion of the physician population nearing retirement and crippling student loan debt that has many new physicians seeking higher compensation elsewhere. With access to care already threatened, New Mexico should not pursue legislation that would add to the burden by increasing physician liability and encouraging physicians to close their doors and practice elsewhere. Even for a largely rural state, New Mexico’s overall density of medical professionals is well below the national benchmark. “In New Mexico,” says Paul Sanchez, MD, Albuquerque ophthalmologist and president of the Greater Albuquerque Medical Association, “we are desperately underserved by physician providers.” Faced with months-long waits for appointments, many New Mexicans seek care outside the state — or don’t get treatment at all. Meanwhile, healthcare organizations are struggling to recruit physicians. Many new physicians graduate with around $200,000 in student loan debt — and New Mexico’s physician compensation is among the lowest in the nation. With 31 percent of the population of New…

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February 2019 Newsletter

PA Supreme Court avoids rush to judgement on liability rule changes The Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced it would delay a proposal that could encourage medical lawsuit abuse across the state. At issue is a proposed rule change that would allow lawsuits to be filed outside of the county where the incident in question occurred. The announcement followed a request by the state Senate to study the issue further before any changes are made. The legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee will look at how the location where liability lawsuits are filed impacts access to care, costs, and compensation. Fifteen years ago, lawsuits could be brought forth in any county where the doctor or hospital did business. Philadelphia, which built up a reputation for its litigious environment, became the city of choice for personal injury attorneys “venue shopping” their lawsuit. The Senate’s report is due to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court by Jan. 1, putting a hold on any changes this year. To read more about the proposed changes in Pennsylvania’s liability laws, click here. Costs remain crippling even as liability lawsuits decline While the frequency of medical liability claims show a positive downward trend, the cost of defending a lawsuit and average…

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NM faces hurdles recruiting doctors

SOURCE: Albuquerque Journal An “exciting opportunity” for a neurosurgeon awaits at the San Juan Regional Medical Center, according to an online hospital help wanted ad. Unfortunately, the vacancy has been open for at least 18 months despite the eye-popping base salary of up to $750,000 and perks that include student loan repayment. The good news is that the 194-bed hospital in New Mexico’s Four Corners area – which needs a total three neurosurgeons – has managed to hire two from out of state during its ongoing search. “We beat the bushes and found them,” said hospital CEO Jeff Bourgeois. “We tell them, `You’re needed. You’re needed here. Come here and you’ll be appreciated … ‘ ” New Mexico is suffering more than many other states from the national physician shortage, leading to long wait times for appointments and emergency room visits when waiting is unbearable. One national report ranked the state 48th in access to physicians in 2017. To make matters worse, the state’s physician work force is the oldest in the country and ranked near the top in the number of doctors surveyed who said they planned to retire in the next few years. Some health care leaders say…

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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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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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High Court’s Contempt for Lawmakers’ Authority, Lawsuit Rackets Place Florida atop Latest ‘Judicial Hellholes’ List

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 5, 2017 – The American Tort Reform Foundation issued its 2017-2018 Judicial Hellholes® report today, naming courts in Florida, California, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois and Louisiana among the nation’s “most unfair” in their handling of civil litigation. “With both this annual report and a year-round website, our Judicial Hellholes program since 2002 has been documenting troubling developments in jurisdictions where civil court judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally to the disadvantage of defendants,” began American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce. “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, even as authorities have begun to crack down on some of the lawsuit industry’s most obviously fraudulent rackets. “Ranked #2 is perennial hellhole California, where lawmakers, prosecutors and plaintiff-friendly judges inexorably expand civil liability at the expense of businesses, jobseekers and those desperately in need of affordable housing,” Joyce explained. “The good news is the U.S. Supreme Court in June reversed a…

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July 2016 Newsletter

New Mexico Legislators Find Solutions to Out-of-State Liability Concerns Patients in New Mexico who seek treatment from neighboring states now have more assurance that care will available to them without physicians feeling threatened by out-of-state liability laws. The change in the law was necessitated following a case where a New Mexico patient who, after receiving treatment in Texas from a Texas physician, brought forward litigation under New Mexico tort laws, which do not include similar tort liability protections as Texas laws. Without addressing the issue, patients faced limits in seeking care from out-of-state physicians. “There were large practices [in Texas] where 60 percent of their patients are from New Mexico, and they were going to stop seeing those patients,” said Randy Marshall, executive director of the New Mexico Medical Society. “Some practices were already turning away patients.” The bill, which took effect earlier this month and sunsets in three years, allows doctors in other states to request patients to sign a form stating that they would file any lawsuits in the state where the treatment was provided. The document would be admissible in court in both the home state of the patient and the state where any lawsuit is filed….

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New law will limit lawsuits on Texas doctors

A medical malpractice lawsuit filed by a New Mexico patient against a Texas doctor could have disrupted care for patients throughout the state, said state Rep. Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces. Legislation sponsored by McMillan that takes effect Friday will temporarily resolve the issue while the New Mexico Supreme Court considers the case, he said. In 2004, New Mexico resident Kimberly Montano traveled to Lubbock, Texas, to have bariatric surgery at Texas Tech University performed by Dr. Eldo Frezza. She later sued Frezza, who would have had immunity under Texas law because he is employed by the state. But Montano sued in New Mexico courts, arguing that even though the surgery and follow-up treatments were performed in Texas, her subsequent injuries manifested in New Mexico. When the New Mexico Appeals Court agreed with her, doctors throughout Texas threatened to stop seeing New Mexico patients, McMillan said. “Nobody’s malpractice insurance is going to cover another state,” said McMillan, who is the only medical doctor in the Legislature. “They were not going to see New Mexico patients anymore unless we did something.” Randy Marshall, executive director of the New Mexico Medical Society, said some Texas providers had already made the decision to stop seeing New…

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Editorial: Subjecting out-of-state M.D.s to NM law risky

A medical malpractice lawsuit filed in Albuquerque by a Curry County woman who had gastric bypass surgery in 2004 at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock has sent a thorny question to the New Mexico Supreme Court. While it would seem reasonable that Kimberly Montaño should have the ability to pursue a medical malpractice claim, a decision in her favor could have a chilling effect on all New Mexicans’ ability to access health care outside the state – and not just the many eastern New Mexico residents who rely on Texas health care providers because of shortages in the area. Kimberly Montaño went to Texas Tech University because that’s where her insurer at the time, Lovelace Insurance Co., told her she had to go if she wanted her surgery covered. She claims to have had life-affecting complications and is suing her surgeon, Dr. Eldo Frezza, who was chief of bariatric surgery at the TTU Health Sciences Center. Montaño has filed her lawsuit in New Mexico seeking to recover losses and punitive damages not allowed under Texas law. Medical malpractice laws differ by state and in Texas, state law bars lawsuits against individual state employees, which Frezza was…

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