Category Archives: News

May 2020 Newsletter

HCLA presses Congress to pass COVID-19 liability protections As the need for federal action in support of pandemic responders builds, the Health Coalition on Liability and Access is taking an active role in pressing Capitol Hill on the importance of incorporating these protections in future COVID-19 legislation. Emphasizing the bipartisan support for passing a form of liability shield during the pandemic, HCLA Vice-Chair Katie Orrico spoke to the Northern California Record about work being done by the organization behind the scenes to ensure these protections are broad enough to be effective. “To the idea that something does in fact need to happen, there has been a bipartisan willingness to entertain that, so ultimately the question will come down to how broad are those protections,” said Orrico. Most recently, the group submitted a statement for the record to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary ahead of a hearing on the matter. Senate Republican leaders have been vocal about their approach. “[COVID-19 liability reforms] will extend significant new protections to the people who have been on the front lines of the response and those who will be on the front lines of the re-opening,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Both…

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April 2020 Newsletter

The HCLA and Protect Patients Now remain committed to supporting our front line health care providers and keeping you updated on COVID-19 related medical liability reform developments at the state and federal levels. Visit our dedicated COVID-19 resource page for regularly updated materials and updates. Stopping liability lawsuits from going viral As confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. hover around one million, a new problem may be spreading — medical liability lawsuits. Personal injury attorneys are taking advantage of a captive audience, advertising to the increasing number of homebound Americans. According to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, television advertising has focused on recruiting cases involving family members of those who became sick or died from COVID-19, in particular, while in nursing homes. With hospitals and providers managing a surge in patients, “Health-care providers have to make treatment decisions against a disease we still know too little about, and they shouldn’t be sued unless they are grossly negligent,” the editorial states. Highlighting the work of Governors in New York, Michigan, and Illinois to protect their states’ providers from lawsuits, the editorial encourages other governors and the federal government to do the same. “Congress last month provided liability protection for…

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HCLA Letter to Congress on immunity during pandemic

Click here to read the letter April 7, 2020 The Hon. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House United States House of Representatives 1236 Longworth House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 The Hon. Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader 317 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader McConnell: On behalf of our 36 member organizations who are tirelessly working to support healthcare professionals and facilities facing a challenge unlike anything in our modern medical history, the Health Coalition on Liability and Access commends your actions in support of those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right now, further action providing them relief from the threat of lawsuits is in the best interest of these professionals and facilities, as well as the patients they are called to serve. Our healthcare professionals and facilities are putting themselves at risk each day while facing workforce shortages, inadequate safety supplies, and insufficient information or changing guidance from federal, state, and local government officials. Despite this, they continue to go above and beyond, doing everything possible to treat the sick and bring comfort to others, often without regard to their own personal wellbeing. And while our healthcare professionals and…

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February 2020 Newsletter

The year ahead for patients and physicians Advocating for physicians in over 60 active lawsuits, the Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies has a busy year ahead in support of access to care. Brian D. Vandenberg, senior vice president and general counsel at the American Medical Association (AMA), recently outlined the priorities for 2020 in an interview with American Medical News. On the docket for the AMA is the rise in hybrid medical liability lawsuits. Vandenberg explains, “Hybrid liability suits attempt to disregard medical malpractice liability caps by conflating distinct legal theories—an end-run around legislative tort reform.” Vandenberg highlights these attempts as “disingenuous” ways to overcome limits on noneconomic damages. “We’ll continue to advocate for meaningful tort reform, and will continue to challenge and file amicus briefs in abusive hybrid lawsuits.” He also emphasized the importance of protecting the patient-physician relationship and the continued ability for open and honest discussions about health care recommendations. When asked about what was at stake in several of their key legal priorities in 2020, Vandenberg answered, “Access and trust. It’s really that simple.” To read the full interview on how the Litigation Center is playing a role in support of ensuring…

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January 2020 Newsletter

Iowa mothers facing fewer options for labor and delivery A rising trend of Iowa maternity ward closures is having a domino effect on expectant mothers and access to prenatal care. With 12 maternity wards closing statewide between 2016 and 2018, the already rural state is leaving soon-to-be mothers with fewer options – further away. Once known as a state offering a reasonable medical liability climate, recent sky-high judgements have impacted the willingness of physicians and hospital systems to remain in practice. Between 2017 and 2019, Iowa juries awarded plaintiffs more than $63 million in non-economic damages, adding up to nearly three times the $21.4 million awarded in economic damages. Now, half of Iowa’s counties lack any maternity services at all. “This situation drives up health care costs for all Iowans as malpractice insurance premiums rise, while putting patients, doctors and hospitals at risk,” writes Dr. Marygrace Elson, an OBGYN practicing in Iowa City and president of the Iowa Medical Society, in a recent op-ed. Ranking last across all states in the number of OBGYNs per 10,000 women, medical liability reform is a must, Elson emphasizes. To read more about the need for the Iowa legislature to take action on liability…

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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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Electronic-related med mal claims increasing: The Doctors

SOURCE: Business Insurance The number of medical malpractice claims stemming at least in part from electronic health records is increasing and may become a more frequent risk factor, says a report by a medical malpractice insurer. An analysis of 216 claims closed from 2010 to 2018 indicates the pace of these claims grew from a low of seven in 2010 to an average of 22.5 cases per year in 2017 and 2018, according to the study by Napa, California-based The Doctors Co. Electronic health records “are typically contributing factors rather than the primary cause of claims, and the frequency with an EHR factor continues to be low (1.1 percent of all claims closed since 2010),” says the study by Darrell Ranum, vice president of patient safety and risk management at the insurer. “Still, as EHRs approach near-universal adoption, they may become a more prevalent source of risk.” The report says the EHR-related claims closed from 2010 to 2018 were caused by either system technology and design issues, such as electronic systems or technology failure, or by user-related issues. One example presented in the study was of an elderly female patient with sinus complaints, for whom the physician intended to order…

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