Category Archives: News

September 2020 Newsletter

Oregon court errs in liability ruling The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled against the state’s limits on non-economic damages for personal injury cases, with the state’s wrongful death cap remaining, putting an attractive place to practice medicine in limbo. Initially enacted in 1987, the reasonable limit of $500,000 on non-economic damages was found unconstitutional in 1999, but reinstated when the court overruled itself in 2016, before again changing its mind this year. This roller coaster ride created significant uncertainty for patients and physicians alike. The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies, the Oregon Medical Association (OMA) and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) filed an amicus brief with the court urging the limits be maintained. “While physicians continue to provide quality healthcare to their patients as they have done for centuries, the burdens on the profession continue to increase. No one does their best work while under duress and physicians are no exception. For all patients to be able to receive quality health care and for our medical system to continue functioning, there must be reasonable limits on liability,” the brief stated. Unfortunately, the court ruled in a different direction. In striking down…

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August 2020 Newsletter

Just the facts: COVID-19 liability reforms As the need to head off a COVID-19 medical liability crisis grows, the American Medical Association (AMA) highlights the Health Coalition on Liability and Access’ (HCLA’s) advocacy efforts in building support for the facts of the matter. With COVID-19 cases building at a rate nearing 50,000 per day, risks of unwarranted lawsuits remain for physicians treating pandemic patients. This risk also threatens patient access to aspects of the health care system that may be disrupted as a result. Pending in the House of Representatives is H.R. 7059, the Coronavirus Provider Protection Act. Similar protections are included in S. 4317, the SAFE TO WORK Act, under consideration for the Senate pandemic stimulus bill. “Physicians and other health care professionals are putting themselves at risk every day while facing shortages of medical supplies and safety equipment, as well as changing directives and guidance from all levels of government,” then-AMA President Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, said previously. While opposition arguments exaggerate the reach and intent of the bill, the AMA highlights six arguments developed by the HCLA that spells out the reality of how pending legislation would address COVID-19 liability issues: • Providing limited and targeted protection…

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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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June 2020 Newsletter

Federal legislation for pandemic providers, facilities gains momentum Late last month, federal legislation was introduced to address the increasing need for liability protections covering front line pandemic responders and the facilities in which they work. H.R. 7059, the Coronavirus Provider Protection Act, is a bipartisan bill introduced by Representatives Phil Roe, MD (R-TN) and Lou Correa (D-CA). The bill includes long-awaited protections addressing the liability exposure of healthcare providers who responded to the health crisis arising from the pandemic. “Plaintiff attorneys have already begun filing COVID-19-related lawsuits, and lawsuits, even those without merit, cost time and money, which clearly interferes with the country’s economic recovery. More importantly, such lawsuits distract health care providers from keeping laser-focused on caring for their patients,” said HCLA Vice-Chair Katie Orrico, in an article in the Northern California Record. their patients,” said HCLA Vice-Chair Katie Orrico, in an article in the Northern California Record. The bill is picking up further momentum as additional co-sponsors sign on and HCLA member organizations express their support. In a letter to Representatives Roe and Correa, HCLA member organizations highlighted that “…H.R. 7059 is a comprehensive, federal solution to a national crisis that cannot be solved by any one state….

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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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April 2020 Newsletter

The HCLA and Protect Patients Now remain committed to supporting our front line health care providers and keeping you updated on COVID-19 related medical liability reform developments at the state and federal levels. Visit our dedicated COVID-19 resource page for regularly updated materials and updates. Stopping liability lawsuits from going viral As confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. hover around one million, a new problem may be spreading — medical liability lawsuits. Personal injury attorneys are taking advantage of a captive audience, advertising to the increasing number of homebound Americans. According to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, television advertising has focused on recruiting cases involving family members of those who became sick or died from COVID-19, in particular, while in nursing homes. With hospitals and providers managing a surge in patients, “Health-care providers have to make treatment decisions against a disease we still know too little about, and they shouldn’t be sued unless they are grossly negligent,” the editorial states. Highlighting the work of Governors in New York, Michigan, and Illinois to protect their states’ providers from lawsuits, the editorial encourages other governors and the federal government to do the same. “Congress last month provided liability protection for…

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HCLA Letter to Congress on immunity during pandemic

Click here to read the letter April 7, 2020 The Hon. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House United States House of Representatives 1236 Longworth House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 The Hon. Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader 317 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader McConnell: On behalf of our 36 member organizations who are tirelessly working to support healthcare professionals and facilities facing a challenge unlike anything in our modern medical history, the Health Coalition on Liability and Access commends your actions in support of those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right now, further action providing them relief from the threat of lawsuits is in the best interest of these professionals and facilities, as well as the patients they are called to serve. Our healthcare professionals and facilities are putting themselves at risk each day while facing workforce shortages, inadequate safety supplies, and insufficient information or changing guidance from federal, state, and local government officials. Despite this, they continue to go above and beyond, doing everything possible to treat the sick and bring comfort to others, often without regard to their own personal wellbeing. And while our healthcare professionals and…

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February 2020 Newsletter

The year ahead for patients and physicians Advocating for physicians in over 60 active lawsuits, the Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies has a busy year ahead in support of access to care. Brian D. Vandenberg, senior vice president and general counsel at the American Medical Association (AMA), recently outlined the priorities for 2020 in an interview with American Medical News. On the docket for the AMA is the rise in hybrid medical liability lawsuits. Vandenberg explains, “Hybrid liability suits attempt to disregard medical malpractice liability caps by conflating distinct legal theories—an end-run around legislative tort reform.” Vandenberg highlights these attempts as “disingenuous” ways to overcome limits on noneconomic damages. “We’ll continue to advocate for meaningful tort reform, and will continue to challenge and file amicus briefs in abusive hybrid lawsuits.” He also emphasized the importance of protecting the patient-physician relationship and the continued ability for open and honest discussions about health care recommendations. When asked about what was at stake in several of their key legal priorities in 2020, Vandenberg answered, “Access and trust. It’s really that simple.” To read the full interview on how the Litigation Center is playing a role in support of ensuring…

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January 2020 Newsletter

Iowa mothers facing fewer options for labor and delivery A rising trend of Iowa maternity ward closures is having a domino effect on expectant mothers and access to prenatal care. With 12 maternity wards closing statewide between 2016 and 2018, the already rural state is leaving soon-to-be mothers with fewer options – further away. Once known as a state offering a reasonable medical liability climate, recent sky-high judgements have impacted the willingness of physicians and hospital systems to remain in practice. Between 2017 and 2019, Iowa juries awarded plaintiffs more than $63 million in non-economic damages, adding up to nearly three times the $21.4 million awarded in economic damages. Now, half of Iowa’s counties lack any maternity services at all. “This situation drives up health care costs for all Iowans as malpractice insurance premiums rise, while putting patients, doctors and hospitals at risk,” writes Dr. Marygrace Elson, an OBGYN practicing in Iowa City and president of the Iowa Medical Society, in a recent op-ed. Ranking last across all states in the number of OBGYNs per 10,000 women, medical liability reform is a must, Elson emphasizes. To read more about the need for the Iowa legislature to take action on liability…

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