April 2013 Newsletter
Protect Patients Now

Volume 8, Issue 4 April 2013 Newsletter


Special points of interest:

New Bill Protects Patient Care
In Times of Trauma, Defensive Medicine Costs Add Up
A Cost and Care Crisis in New York

New Bill Protects Patient Care

Earlier this month, legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives that will curb medical lawsuit abuse and help ensure continued patient access to care. Protect Patients Now supporters are urged to Contact Congress in support of this important piece of legislation.

The Standard of Care Protection Act (H.R. 1473), a bipartisan bill introduced by Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX), is the first piece of legislation in the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress to address our nation’s broken liability system.

“This bill reinforces my belief that medical decisions must be made between patients and their doctors. The practice of medicine is not one-size-fits-all. It must be protected from policies or rules that may threaten a physician’s ability to treat patients according to their specific needs,” said Congressman Gingrey.

The Standard of Care Protection Act ensures that no provisions of federal health care law may be inappropriately used to create new threats for medical liability litigation in the United States.

“This legislation will help alleviate those concerns amongst health care providers, and will reassure patients that steps have been taken to ensure that their access to care is not inadvertently limited,” HCLA Chair Mike Stinson wrote in a letter of support to Congressmen Gingrey and Cuellar.

Click here to Contact Congress now and ask your Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 1473, the Standard of Care Protection Act, to prevent further abuse of our medical liability system and ensure continued access to care for patients across the country.

Similar Efforts Moving Forward at the State Level

Legislators are already taking the first step to replicate the intent of the Standard of Care Protection Act at the state level, with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal expected to sign the bill by the end of this month.

Physicians across the country remain concerned that health care reform measures included in the Affordable Care Act and other federal legislation could be used to increase liability lawsuit claims and in turn, lead to frivolous claims and higher costs. The Georgia law prevents such health reform metrics from being used as evidence in liability cases.

Similar to the federal bill, Georgia’s law states that payer guidelines and quality criteria under federal law shall not establish a legal basis for negligence or a standard of care for the purposes of determining medical liability. While the state law includes exceptions if an “expert witness” testifies that such guidelines accurately represent the appropriate standard of care, the Georgia legislature has taken an important step in acknowledging this burgeoning issue.

“Georgia is the first state to take decisive action to prevent federal health care reform laws and regulations from fueling the unrestricted excesses of the state’s broken medical liability system,” said Dr. Patrice Harris of the American Medical Association’s Board of Trustees.

“To hold the line against tort abuse, Georgia relied on AMA model legislation to make it clear that federal health care standards or guidelines cannot be skewed to invent new legal actions against physicians.”

The HCLA supports efforts at both the state and federal level to ensure that no new avenues of liability exposure are created by the implementation of federal health care reform efforts. To read more about both the Gingrey/Cuellar bill and the state version passed in Georgia, click here.

In Times of Trauma, Defensive Medicine Costs Add Up

Last year, Protect Patients Now brought to your attention a landmark study of the practice of defensive medicine by orthopaedic surgeons. Now, researchers have dug deeper into the subset of orthopaedic trauma surgeons to find out the role defensive medicine plays in their practice decisions during times of trauma..

According to the study, as published in this month’s Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma, orthopaedic trauma surgeons’ practice of defensive medicine accounts for 20 percent of their monthly expenditures – adding up to nearly $256 million each year..

But real changes to improve our medical liability system have the ability to lower those costs. When orthopaedic trauma surgeons were asked about their willingness to reduce or discontinue the practice of defensive medicine if meaningful liability reforms were passed at the federal level, over 70 percent responded affirmatively.

While the practice of defensive medicine by orthopaedic trauma surgeons is in line with orthopaedists who do not specialize in trauma patients, the costs remain staggering and are most certainly passed along to patients. To read the study detailing the costs and implications of defensive medicine among orthopaedic trauma surgeons, click here.

A Cost and Care Crisis in New York

In New York, physicians and patients face a crisis on two fronts as liability premiums and health care costs skyrocket and access to care is reduced.

At the Medical Society of the State of New York’s Annual House of Delegates meeting earlier this month, New York physicians urged legislators to act and bring down the “extraordinary” costs of medical liability insurance, which are driven by excessively high liability awards and settlements.

According to the press release by the Medical Society of New York, physicians pay medical liability premiums that make it difficult to continue to practice medicine. For a single year of coverage, the cost of medical liability coverage for the 2012-13 policy year was:


  • $315,524 for a neurosurgeon in Nassau and Suffolk counties;
  • $183,247 for an OB-GYN in Bronx and Richmond counties;
  • $111,989 for a general surgeon in Kings and Queens counties; and
  • $109,019 for an vascular surgeon or cardiac surgeon in Bronx and Richmond counties


It’s no wonder that New York physicians are fleeing to states like Texas and Mississippi, where reforms have been passed to protect patients, lower costs, and increase access to care. To read more about the need for medical liability reform to protect New York patients, click here.