December 2019 Newsletter

Personal injury attorneys target definition of a patient With courts increasingly reviewing physician liability for patients they have never treated, the answer to what defines a patient could shape the future of access to care. The issue stems from a recent case in which a Minnesota physician was held liable for harm to a patient he had never examined, reviewed her records or spoke to directly. Under review was whether or not the physician still had a “legal duty of care” following a conversation with a Nurse Practitioner, in which he recommended that the patient not be admitted to the hospital-based on a series of symptoms. The AMA’s Litigation Center, in an amicus brief, argued that the duty of care was premised on a patient-physician relationship, which was not present in this case. While lower courts agreed, highlighting the importance of informal consultations among health care professionals, the Minnesota State Supreme Court overruled these verdicts. A moot court review of the case at the 2019 AMA Interim Meeting saw audience members raise concerns about a number of issues arising from the decision, including “the chilling effect of the decision, decision-making authority of NPs and physician assistants, legal ethics and medical…

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November 2019 Newsletter

Iowa’s liability climate is changing – for worse The Iowa Medical Society (IMS) highlighted how the state’s medical liability climate is shifting and threatening access to care in the Fall edition of Iowa Medicine. In 2017, a series of reforms including certificate of merit and expert witness requirements were implemented to drive down the number of meritless lawsuits filed in the state. Unfortunately, at the time, reasonable limits on non-economic damages were included only as a “soft cap,” allowing the limit to be waived by a jury in certain instances. MaryGrace Elson, MD, MME, FACOG, President of IMS and an OB/GYN from Iowa City, highlights the outcome of the soft cap in the edition’s feature story, “Our Medical Liability System in Crisis.” “In the past three years, Iowa’s medical liability climate has shifted dramatically,” she notes. “… Iowa’s trial bar has begun cherry-picking cases where there is no dispute that a medical error occurred. Employing questionable tactics that play to juries’ emotions and drive up award expectations, we have seen a string of high-dollar verdicts against physicians and facilities.” Over the past two years, just five lawsuits have led to awards of $63 million in noneconomic damages, and impacted patient…

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October 2019 Newsletter

Alarming rise in premiums highlighted in Medical Liability Monitor The annual Medical Liability Monitor rate survey highlighted a rate increase, not seen in over a decade, and shed light on how the future of liability rates could begin sounding industry alarms. The 2019 Medical Liability Monitor Annual Rate Survey, for the first time since 2006, found that more than 25 percent of medical professional liability (MPL) premium rates increased, while only five percent of rates went down. The overall rate increase year over year was approximately 0.8 percent. The uptick led analysts to study whether or not the conditions exist for a repeat of the cost crisis that occurred in the mid-2000s, with annual rate increases averaging between 10 and 30 percent. Notably, rate increases for general surgery were found to be greater than the average increases. Guest editors of the survey edition, Bill Burns and Alyssa Gittleman from the Insurance Research Department of the global investment management firm Conning, did a deeper dive into the results. According to a press release issued by the Medical Liability Monitor, Gittleman and Burns “compared current market conditions to those which preceded the last hard market. They note similarities between the two in…

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