Category Archives: Newsletter

November 2017 Newsletter

Physician opinions: medical liability lawsuits and impact on care Holding strong opinions about the current liability climate, its impact on patient care, and the way to discourage medical lawsuit abuse, physicians weighed in on the way toward comprehensive medical liability reform. Surveying over 4100 physicians across more than 25 specialties currently practicing in the US, Medscape captured the prevailing thoughts of physicians who bear the brunt of a broken system that costs too much, takes too long, and undermines their relationship with their patients. With 55 percent of those taking part in the survey responding that they had been named in a medical liability lawsuit, specialists across surgery and OB/GYN practices were found to be most likely to be sued. Eighty-five percent of respondents in each specialty noted that at one point or another in their careers, they were forced to spend countless hours on defense preparation and in court for lawsuits, that, 40 percent of the time, took between one to two years to resolve. As a result, 45 percent of physicians report that the threat of medical liability lawsuits are on their mind all or most of the time – a driving factor in the practice of defensive…

Read More

October 2017 Newsletter

Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling could lead to medical lawsuit abuse Patients and physicians in Oklahoma could face a deteriorating liability climate in the coming years, as the state Supreme Court recently ruled against an effective liability reform. This setback to accessible and affordable care is the third time the Supreme Court has ruled against a certificate of merit requirement, following several revisions to past legislation which had also been invalidated by the Court. The latest version of the reforms included expanding the scope of expert witness affidavits to include all civil negligence actions which required testimony by an expert, following previous rulings that the law put a higher burden on victims of professional negligence than victims of general negligence. “We believe the certificate of merit has been an important legal reform that helped prevent baseless lawsuits, and we will look carefully at our options and next steps to address today’s ruling,” said Wes Glinsmann, executive director of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. Without an umbrella of federal reforms, medical liability at the state level has too often been a game of one step forward, two steps back, as reforms are passed and then continuously challenged by the personal injury lobby….

Read More

September 2017 Newsletter

Liability concerns drive up defensive medicine, cost of care Providing treatment above what is medically necessary to fend off the threat of a lawsuit continues to be a trend – and a major driver of health care cost increases. A study of over 2100 physicians conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that more than two-thirds of respondents believe that 15-30% of tests, procedures, and prescriptions were unnecessarily recommended. The reason? Liability concerns. Over 80% of the physicians surveyed cited the fear of medical liability lawsuits as the justification for practicing defensive medicine. “Addressing overtreatment can have a major impact on rising healthcare costs in the U.S.,” the authors wrote. “Using the Institute of Medicine’s estimate of excess costs arising from overtreatment, a 50% reduction in ‘unnecessary services’ would result in $105 billion in savings each year, or about 4% of total national healthcare spending.” With a patchwork of laws leaving uncertainty about the liability climate from state to state, physicians surveyed recommended a series of changes that could help in the interim, including improved training on appropriate criteria for care, more accessible medical records, and evidence-based practice guidelines. To read more about the Johns Hopkins study on defensive medicine, click…

Read More

July 2017 Newsletter

  Ailing liability system not fair to deserving patients Even as the prospects for larger efforts to reform our nation’s health care system remain uncertain, there’s hope that medical liability reform could make incremental progress on reducing costs and restoring fairness to deserving patients. An editorial this month highlights the progress made by the House of Representatives in passing the Protecting Access to Care Act in order to align a patchwork of state liability laws and ensure full compensation of medical bills and lost wages to patients who are the victims of medical negligence. Unfortunately, personal injury attorneys continue to stand in the way of full passage of medical liability reform by the Senate. According to the editorial, “fairness is elusive,” particularly to patients, who are subject to a system that adds billions of dollars in health care spending each year, lost to defensive medicine and sky-high premiums that reduce access to care. With the ball now in the court of the Senate, “lawmakers who say they’re committed to addressing ‘affordable’ health care need to stop dancing around malpractice tort reform and address what’s grown into a significant, if not inordinate, cost driver,” the editorial concludes. To read more about…

Read More

June 2017 Newsletter

  Patient access to care scores a win in Washington The passage of comprehensive medical liability reform legislation this week in Washington gives patients and physicians a win on access to affordable care. H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, passed the House by a vote of 218 to 210, and enacts reasonable limits on non-economic damages while modeling the common-sense reforms of states like Texas and California. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the comprehensive medical liability reforms included in H.R. 1215 would lead to cost savings of $44 billion over the 2017-2026 period for federal health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and reduce the national deficit by almost $50 billion over the same 10-year period. The Protect Patients Now grassroots network was activated over the past month and was instrumental in gathering support for the bill. Nearly 650 emails were sent to members of Congress, with many others taking to Facebook and Twitter to advocate for support of medical liability reform. “Our broken medical liability system is one step closer to more efficiently and equitably compensating deserving patients and reducing the medical lawsuit abuse that undermines the physician-patient relationship,” said HCLA Chair Mike…

Read More

Florida patients face uncertainty after liability reforms deemed unconstitutional

On Thursday, in a 4-3 decision by the Florida Supreme Court, a 2003 law setting caps on medical malpractice damages in personal injury cases was declared unconstitutional. The law, which was strongly supported by then governor Jeb Bush, limited non-economic damages in malpractice cases in which a patient was injured to $500,000, or $1 million if the injuries were catastrophic. At the time the legislation was passed Florida physicians were faced with skyrocketing malpractice insurance premium rates with many exiting practice in the state. The decision comes three years after the court struck down caps in cases where malpractice resulted in death. The four-member majority ruled that the caps on “non-economic” damages violated equal-protection rights, that the caps were arbitrary and that there is no proof that they reduced malpractice insurance rates. They also said that there is no existing malpractice insurance “crisis” to justify the caps. “We conclude that the caps on noneconomic damages … arbitrarily reduce damage awards for plaintiffs who suffer the most drastic injuries,” said the majority opinion shared by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince. The three dissenting justices, Ricky Polston, Alan Lawson and Charles Canady, issued…

Read More

Trial lawyers push bill for heftier fees in malpractice cases

Trial lawyers are trying to slip in a fast one in the waning days of the legislative session in Albany that would fatten their legal fees in medical malpractice cases. Lawyers can earn 30 percent of the first $250,000 recovered in medical malpractice recoveries, dropping to 20 percent of the next $500,000, 15 percent of the following $250,000 and 10 percent of any amount over $1.25 million. A bill introduced on Sunday by Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn) would allow much heftier fees. The 30 percent cut would be applied to the first $1 million recovered, 25 percent of the next $250,000 and 20 percent of any amount over $1.25 million in cases decided by the end of 2019. The contingency fees then get bumped up even higher — 30 percent of the first $1.25 million and 25 percent of any amount over that — in cases decided before Dec. 31, 2020. And after Dec. 31, 2020, lawyers could collect the contingency fee percentage allowed in all other litigation — 33 percent of recoveries. “This is a gift to the trial lawyers. The bill would directly take money from injured…

Read More

May 2017 Newsletter

  Liability reform cited as major savings in President’s budget With an emphasis on deficit reduction, the President’s 2018 budget highlighted how medical liability reform can lead to improved fiscal health. Cited as resulting in major savings and reform, medical liability reform is noted in the President’s budget as necessary due to the fact that “the current medical liability system does not work for patients or providers, nor does it provide quality, evidence-based care,” budget language states. The liability reform proposal in the budget contains proven state reforms that have lowered costs and increased access to care in states such as California, Texas, West Virginia, and Ohio. This allows for deficit reductions of $55 billion over 10 years upon passage of a bill that contains reasonable limits on non-economic damages of $250,000 (increasing with inflation), a three-year statute of limitations, and modifications on attorney’s fees to ensure deserving patients – not personal injury lawyers – benefit from liability judgments and settlements. To review the medical liability reform proposal contained within the President’s budget, click here. Panel discussion yields insights into future of liability reform Taking part in a legal panel on the future of medical liability reform, HCLA chair Mike…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More