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A doctor’s place is in the exam room

PPN | National, News | Source | July 27, 2017

An orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon walk into a room … Unfortunately, this is not the start of a joke. While we would prefer to be sharing best practices and treating patients in our exam rooms, the fact is we’re spending more time than we’d like in a courtroom. Because our medical liability system is broken, orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, OB-GYNs and other specialty physicians continue to find themselves on the receiving end of meritless lawsuits. As a pediatric orthopedic surgeon practicing for more than 40 years in Iowa City, I’ve seen countless colleagues forced to defend their treatment decisions and reputations — leaving less time for patients — only for the lawsuits to be dropped, dismissed or withdrawn for lack of merit. Our medical liability system costs too much, takes too long, undermines the doctor-patient relationship and does not serve the needs of patients or physicians. Too often, the cost of defensive medicine — the tests and procedures above and beyond what is medically necessary to limit exposure to litigation — is tacked on to health care bills, leading to steep increases in costs year after year. When applied to 2015 health care spending, defensive medicine adds anywhere from $160…

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Commentary: Florida Supreme Court crowns itself fact-finder and policymaker on malpractice

PPN | Florida, National, News | Source | July 17, 2017

On June 8, in North Broward Hospital District v. Kalitan, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that caps on noneconomic damages (pain and suffering) in medical malpractice lawsuits violated the equal protection clause. Mostly, the court said that the caps did not pass the “rational basis test,” where a challenged law must be rationally related to a legitimate government interest. By deciding the Legislature had no rational basis for imposing the caps, the court crowned itself fact-finder and policymaker, rejecting all of the Legislature’s work and its role under our system of government. Under the rational basis test, the court is supposed to defer to the Legislature if there is any “rational basis” in the record. Here, the court found there was no conceivable rational basis for the Legislature’s action. Let’s take a look at the record. In 2002, the Governor’s Select Task Force on Healthcare Professional Liability Insurance spent months traveling around the state, listening to all interested parties, gathering relevant data, and analyzing trends. What they observed and documented was alarming: In 2002, the average liability premium per doctor in Florida was 55 percent higher than the national average. For the period from 1996 to 2002, average insurance premiums in Florida…

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Medical malpractice tort reform: A remedy for ‘fairness’

PPN | National, News | Source | July 9, 2017

While repeal-and-replace health care legislation sputters and stalls in the U.S. Senate, the House has advanced a medical tort-reform bill that could, by one estimate, save taxpayers at least $50 billion over 10 years. The Protecting Access to Care Act passed by a precariously slim margin. It now faces an uphill battle in the Senate. The legislation caps the gray area of medical malpractice lawsuits — noneconomic damages — at $250,000. Injured parties would still receive full compensation for measurable, economic harm, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Of course, the legal lobby is not going to sit still for legislation that limits these lawsuits. Democrat sympathizers already are bemoaning the injustice to mothers and children, who may not necessarily face economic losses such as lost wages. But “fairness” is elusive when punitive damages are, at best, speculative and subjective — if not inconsistent. Back in 2008, a comprehensive study by the Harvard School of Public Health found medical liability costs totaled $56 billion (or 2.4 percent) of all U.S. health care spending, according to The Heritage Foundation. Other studies show medical liability costs may account for up to 10 percent of all U.S. health care expenditures, Heritage reports….

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