March 2019 Newsletter

Supreme Court changes could improve Florida’s liability climate

The liability climate may be changing for the better in Florida, where access to care advocates are optimistic that new state Supreme Court justices will rule in favor of reform.

Recently dubbed as the nation’s second worst “judicial hellhole” by the American Tort Reform Association, prior sitting justices voted in 2014 and 2017 to overturn medical liability legislation passed by the state legislature.

With three new justices recently appointed to the court, advocates across the state have reason to be hopeful.

State Rep. Tom Leek hopes that comprehensive medical liability reforms, including reasonable limits on non-economic damages, will bring justice to deserving patients and help keep health care costs affordable for the state’s aging population.

With medical liability reform, “you provide predictability,” Leek said. “You allow insurance carriers to have a better understanding of what their exposure is and with that they can set premiums that are reasonable.”

Leek’s recently introduced legislation is supported by the state business community thanks to the positive impact it would have on health care affordability and reduced medical lawsuit abuse, but still faces a high hurdle of opposition.

To read more about the renewed push for liability reform in Florida, click here.

2020 budget holds promise for liability reform

The HCLA was encouraged to see medical liability reforms included in the 2020 budget proposal, highlighting the need to fix what has been a broken system for both patients and health care providers.

The reforms in the President’s 2020 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services are projected to save $26.9 billion in HHS programs, as well as $31.5 billion in overall government spending over 10 years.

The savings outlined in the proposal stem from an estimated reduction in unnecessary services and curbing the practice of defensive medicine. Many states, including California and Texas, have had success in adding specialty physicians and reducing medical lawsuit abuse following the passage of reforms, and the HCLA has long advocated to pass these reforms at the federal level.

“Our nation’s medical liability system benefits a small group of personal injury attorneys at the expense of patients and physicians,” said HCLA Chair Mike Stinson. “I am pleased that the 2020 budget recognizes that our system is broken and includes reforms that have been proven at the state level to increase access to care and help bring down sky-high health care costs.”

To read the HCLA’s press release supporting the budget language, click here

HCLA sets agenda, priorities at annual meeting

HCLA’s annual meeting this month was an opportunity to set the stage for 2019 initiatives – and hear from those with their fingers on the pulse of liability reform.

The meeting looked at state legislative activities, how civil justice reforms may be changing across the country, and how alternative reforms are changing the liability landscape.

Speakers from the American Medical Association, the American Tort Reform Association, and the Massachusetts Alliance for Communication and Resolution Following Medical Injury gave the group members an opportunity to discuss how they could play an advocacy role in the year ahead.

The speakers highlighted how HCLA efforts have had positive influence in the past, and how the group could make an impact in support of patient access to care going forward.

The HCLA confirmed Mike Stinson of the MPL Association as Chair, Katie Orrico of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons as Vice Chair, and Catherine Hayes of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons as Secretary. Kristina Weger of the American Hospital Association and Elizabeth Healy of The Doctors Company will join the board as contributing members, and John Michael Villarama of the American Osteopathic Association was confirmed as a regular member.

Named to the Coalition’s Executive Committee were the above mentioned offices, as well as George Cox of the American Medical Association and Matthew Coffron of the American College of Surgeons.

Congratulations to those re-elected to leadership positions as the group continues to play a role in reform through Protect Patients Now grassroots activities and works to reduce medical lawsuit abuse.