Category Archives: Newsletter

October 2018 Newsletter

Elderly Texans among the beneficiaries of liability reform Liability reforms were a long time coming for the long-term care industry in Texas, where, prior to 2003, half the nursing homes across the state couldn’t find or afford liability insurance. Highly rated nursing homes were frequently targeted by personal injury attorneys pursuing meritless claims, driving up costs that forced them to scale back their care. Big changes came following medical liability reform legislation passed in 2003, when the nursing home industry in Texas experienced dramatic improvements in the care they were able to provide their residents – all thanks to savings from liability insurance premiums. “Texas tort reform saved our organization and the residents that we serve,” said Alan Hale, CEO of Manor Park, a non-profit elderly care facility in west Texas. Now, Texas has 50 percent fewer cases against nursing homes than the national average – evidence that reforms are making an impact. Facilities throughout the state, including Manor Park and another non-profit, Morningside Ministries, have credited liability reforms with allowing them to invest resources in recruiting care staff and nurses, training younger people for the various careers in long-term and elderly care, and improving the homes that serve and…

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September 2018 Newsletter

Texas hold ‘em: 15 years since reform In the 15 years since comprehensive medical liability reforms were enacted, Texas has held on to physicians – and held off those seeking to return to a time when patient access to care was at risk. Initially enacted in 2003, liability reforms have resulted in an influx of physicians, benefiting rural residents across the state. “Texas’ medical liability reforms have been nationally considered the gold standard for medical liability legislation,” said Governor Greg Abbott. “Tort reform has significantly reduced lawsuits and liability costs in our state and contributed greatly to the increasing number of doctors practicing in Texas.” Women’s health care services have also improved, with Texas Alliance for Patient Access (TAPA) Chairman, Dr. Howard Marcus, confirming that Texas has added more obstetricians than any state in the nation. “Because of the tort reform measures passed by the Texas Legislature in 2003, the number of Texas primary care, high-risk, and total physicians have expanded at a rate greater than population growth,” Dr. Marcus said. To read more about the work of TAPA and the 15-year liability reform milestone, click here. A physician’s perspective on jackpot justice A spine surgeon and editor-in-chief of AAOS…

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August 2018 Newsletter

The reality of defensive medicine With projections about the cost implications of defensive medicine in the hundreds of millions of dollars, a new study showed greater insight into how physicians treated patients when they were not subject to the threat of lawsuits. The reality of defensive medicine became apparent when researchers from Duke and MIT, on behalf of the National Bureau of Economic Research, focused on active-duty military who were treated by government health care systems that are protected from medical liability lawsuits. When compared to treatment received by active-duty military from civilian medical professionals who are subject to liability, the study found “suggestive evidence that liability immunity reduces inpatient spending by 5% with no measurable negative effect on patient outcomes.” The study did an in-depth analysis on quality indicators to be sure doctors weren’t providing substandard care, and found no instances where the quality of care in the military health care facilities appeared to be worse. “Our analysis demonstrates that the active duty receiving care on the base are treated notably less intensively, without any health outcome consequences. Considering the lack of liability recourse for his treatment group, this pattern of results is suggestive of a strong degree of…

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July 2018 Newsletter

Wisconsin court preserves reforms – and access to care A decision this month by Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court kept intact liability reforms that have placed reasonable limits on noneconomic damages and resulted in lower health care costs for patients and physicians. The court upheld the state’s $750,000 limit on non-economic damages while continuing to guarantee that deserving patients would receive full and unlimited compensation for past and future medical care as well as lost wages. “Today’s Court decision preserves Wisconsin’s balanced medical liability system that has been instrumental in attracting physicians to communities across Wisconsin, while providing assurance to injured patients that they will receive payment for the full amount of a jury’s award of medical expenses, lost wages, and other economic losses,” Wisconsin Hospital Association President Eric Borgerding stated. The state maintains an Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund using assessments charged to physicians, clinics, hospitals and other participants and covers all damages above their primary insurance limits. Premiums paid by physicians to the fund have been dropping since 2014, with rates falling by 34 percent in 2016, 30 percent last year and an anticipated drop of another 30 percent this year. This month’s decision comes as a reversal…

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June 2018 Newsletter

Liability reform empowers physicians to avoid defensive medicine While evidence strongly suggests that the potential for liability lawsuits results in treatments and tests that may not be otherwise necessary, new data shows that medical liability reform may be empowering physicians to go on the offensive together with their patients. A newly published analysis compared diagnosis and treatment patterns in patients suspected of having coronary artery disease between states where liability reforms have been adopted and states without non-economic damage limits in place. The study included 36,647 physicians in nine states with reasonable limits adopted between 2003 and 2005, and 39,154 in states that had not taken any action to utilize limits on non-economic damages to rein in lawsuits. Physicians in states with reasonable liability limits were less prone to rely on angiography as a first diagnostic test and more likely to order noninvasive stress testing, the report found. In addition, fewer patients were referred for angiography following initial stress testing. These physicians also performed fewer percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) procedures after ischemic evaluation, with indications that these patients were offered medical therapy as an alternative. “Our study suggests that physicians who face lower malpractice risk may be less concerned with…

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May 2018 Newsletter

Maryland trial court attempts to redefine liability standards Under consideration by Maryland’s highest court is a case that attempts to redefine professional standards of care – and negate the testimony of expert witnesses. The basis of the case stems from a medical liability trial in which instructions provided to the jury deviated from well-established law on measuring standard of care as what a ‘reasonably competent’ physician would be expected to do, per expert witness testimony. Instead, the jury was instructed to consider only what a ‘reasonable layperson’ would do – potentially warping how physician negligence is defined. The Litigation Center of American Medical Association and State Medical Societies joined the Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi) and the Medical Mutual Liability Society of Maryland in filing an amicus brief that not only cited the likely increase in meritless lawsuits and implications for standards of other professionals in court, but also noted that experts must be relied on because medical procedures are not common knowledge. “Letting juries nullify professional standards would upend the basic premise that professional malpractice claims involve specialized knowledge and duties that laypeople cannot assess based on their common knowledge,” the brief states. A lower appeals court agreed that…

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April 2018 Newsletter

Improving patient care by removing threat of lawsuits In an effort to better understand the impact that medical lawsuit abuse has on health care providers, a recent study granted immunity from liability lawsuits to practicing physicians – and studied the after affects. Over the course of six years, 900 clinically active employed physicians at Jackson Memorial Hospital, part of the University of Miami, could be deemed agents of JMH and received the protections of sovereign immunity when they were providing medical care at a JMH facility. Not only was there no negative impact on patient safety, but the number of harmful events decreased by 13 percent over a four-year period. “This study suggests that without the threat of malpractice lawsuits, physicians are still committed to delivering the safest, highest quality patient care possible,” said Dr. David A. Lubarsky, chief medical and systems integration officer at the University of Miami Health System and the study’s lead author. The immunity offered physicians an opportunity to treat patients without the threat of liability lawsuits, reducing the incentive to practice defensive medicine. “An effective liability system should offer incentives to institutions that adopt safer systems,” Dr. Lubarsky said, citing better patient data sharing, education,…

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March 2018 Newsletter

Bad examples: New York, Pennsylvania lead national liability rates Without reform to keep medical lawsuit abuse in check, examples of the inefficiencies of our nation’s liability system are emerging in several states in the form of increasingly large payouts. According to a recent survey by Diederich Health Care, a medical liability insurance and consulting company, New York topped the list for the largest liability payouts in 2017 with a total of nearly $618 million, with Pennsylvania second at $342 million and Illinois not far behind with $301 million. What do these states have in common? None have reasonable limits on non-economic damages in place, with liability climates that have worsened in recent years due to lawmakers who are more likely to push for changes that benefit personal injury attorneys rather than patients. In New York, 30,000 members of the Medical Society of the State of New York opposed extending the state’s statute of limitations on liability claims because it would increase their already high liability costs and drive more doctors out of the state. Unfortunately, the law passed, lengthening the statute of limitations from 15 to 30 months, beginning not when the error occurred, but the date at which the…

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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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