Category Archives: News

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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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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Don’t create unintended loopholes for medical liability cases

SOURCE: AMA A Kentucky law that, in most cases, gives patients one year to file a medical liability lawsuit does the job it was designed to do—ensuring claims are promptly and fairly adjudicated—and the judicial system shouldn’t create any unintended loopholes, physicians tell the state’s high court. Stay current on the latest on the issues impacting physicians, patients and the health care environment with the AMA’s Advocacy Update Newsletter. The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies along with the Kentucky Medical Association on July 24 filed an amicus brief in a case before the Supreme Court of Kentucky, Sneed v. University of Louisville Hospital, that challenges the limits that the Kentucky General Assembly established. The AMA Litigation Center brief asks the court to uphold the one-year limitation period patients and attorneys have abided by for years, advising justices that letting this lawsuit go forward under a narrow doctrine that carves out longer limits in certain cases would open up a loophole and expose health care providers to “indefinite medical liability claims.” Patients with lifelong conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma, or cancer and heart disease patients who require lengthy treatments, could sue…

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Bill would give liability protection to volunteer doctors in bid to cover low-income Wyomingites

Physicians and health facilities that provide voluntary care to low-income patients would have state protection for liability lawsuits under a bill being considered in the Wyoming Senate. The bill — Senate File 66 — would allow the Wyoming Department of Health to contract with volunteer health providers and facilities to make them state employees. That way, the state would “have the duty to defend a health care provider alleged to have been negligent” in delivering care. The voluntary health providers or facilities would have to offer care to low-income patients, meaning people with an income at or beneath 200 percent of the current federal poverty line, according to the bill. The measure — originally sponsored by the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee — was approved by two Senate subcommittees and is currently set to be considered by the entire body. The liability of volunteer physicians has been a concern of the medical community, said Stefan Johansson, the policy administrators for the health department. “I expect there has been hesitation” to provide volunteer care, agreed Kevin Bohnenblust, the executive director of the Wyoming Board of Medicine. “That’s the nature of the times we live in.” The bill would cost about $50,000 a…

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Medical tort-reform bill moves to House

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Senate approved an omnibus medical tort-reform measure yesterday that would regulate everything from trial attorney fees, medical record copying charges and which malpractice lawsuits can advance in the courts. Among its many provisions, Senate Bill 20 would require medical malpractice lawsuits to contain an affidavit of merit. That’s a document stating that at least one doctor agrees the claim has merit. A medical review panel opinion in favor of a patient would fulfill the affidavit of merit requirement. Senate Bill 4 from 2017 created panels of experts to review claims of medical error or neglect. If the medical review panel finds in favor of the medical provider, however, the patient would still have to get an affidavit of merit to advance to court. A second provision would impose contingency caps on attorney fees in medical malpractice cases. An amendment would set those caps at no more than 33 percent of any awarded damages. “Some will argue this is an infringement on the free market,” Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, who introduced the legislation. “I feel it is a protection against predatory legal practices in Kentucky.” A third provision is known as the “I’m sorry” clause. It would…

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Legal reform advocates point to medical malpractice figures in New York, Pennsylvania

ALBANY, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) – Experts who have watched medical malpractice lawsuits skyrocket in states like New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey say lawmakers have made it too easy and attractive to sue and reform must happen. “New Yorkers once again pay more for medical liability than anywhere in America,” Tom Stebbins, executive director of Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York told Legal Newsline. “Sadly, Albany recently made matters worse by approving legislation that expands liability and makes it easier to file lawsuits.” The “2018 Medical Malpractice Payout Analysis” released March 1 by Diederich Health Care, a medical liability insurance and consulting company based in Carbondale, Illinois, includes figures comparing medical malpractice rates among states. Among Northeast states, New York topped the list for the most malpractice cases with a total approximate $617,973,000 in payouts with Pennsylvania second at $342,093,300, and New Jersey third with $267,913,250. The lowest in the Northeast were the District of Columbia with $11,498,500, Delaware with $8,253,250 and Vermont at the bottom with $1,536,500. Among Midwestern states, Illinois was far in the lead with $300,790,050 in payouts with Michigan second at $77,072,200. The lowest Midwestern states were Wisconsin at $13,527,100, North Dakota with $3,505,000 and…

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February 2018 Newsletter

Show me liability reform A recent push for liability reform in Missouri could show patients how a reduction in medical lawsuit abuse can improve access to care across the states. Building on Governor Greitens’ emphasis on the need for changes to the state’s liability system, a new bill would bring an efficient resolution to those with legitimate claims. The latest bill, introduced by State Senator Dan Hegeman, allows physicians to address claims promptly by redefining the statute of limitations to three years. “Missouri has not amended the five-year statute since 1939,” Hegeman told the Senate government reform committee. “While five years may have made sense in an age when transportation and communication were more challenging, there is no reason today for an injured person to need so much time to file the action.” The shorter statute of limitations gives physicians peace of mind that any claims of negligence are addressed quickly, and deserving patients benefit from a system that better separates meritless lawsuits from rightful claims for damages. To read more about Missouri’s efforts to further reform their liability system for patients and physicians, click here. Sweeping changes to liability system would bring benefits to Kentucky Initiating legislation that would…

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Tort Reform Roundup: Kentucky & Missouri

In this edition of Tort Reform Roundup, we look at a pair of states considering some major tort reform initiatives. In Kentucky, a sweeping measure aimed at capping attorney fees on medical malpractice damages, has passed the State Senate Health & Welfare Committee and now awaits a vote in the Senate. Meanwhile, the state of Missouri is mulling over a proposal that would shrink the time for filing personal injury lawsuits. Kentucky The state currently has no cap on damages in any type of injury. State Senator Ralph Alvarado aims to change that with SB-20, a bill that seeks to impose contingency caps on attorney fees in medical malpractice cases. The limits in this provision would allow a lawyer to make $60,000 of contingency fees if their client wins $200,000 in damages, or $140,000 if their client wins $1 million in damages. Other provisions would exempt medical peer review discussions from discovery, require medical malpractice lawsuits to contain an affidavit of merit (a document stating that at least one doctor agrees the claim has merit), and allow healthcare workers to express condolences to patients or families without fear of having those words used against them in a lawsuit. Alvarado has…

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Senate panel explores medical tort-reform bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A sweeping measure to regulate everything from trial attorney fees, medical record copying charges and how malpractice lawsuits are brought passed the state Senate Health and Welfare Committee yesterday. The legislation was described as an omnibus medical tort-reform bill by sponsor Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester. Among its many provisions, Senate Bill 20 would require medical malpractice lawsuits to contain an affidavit of merit. That’s a document stating that at least one doctor agrees the claim has merit. A medical review panel opinion in favor of a patient would fulfill the affidavit of merit requirement. Senate Bill 4 from 2017 created panels of experts to review claims of medical error or neglect. If the medical review panel finds in favor of the medical provider, however, the patient would still have to get an affidavit of merit to advance to court. A second provision would impose contingency caps on attorney fees in medical malpractice cases. The limits in this provision would still allow a lawyer to make $60,000 of contingency fees if their client wins $200,000 or $140,000 if their client wins $1 million, according to the language in SB 20. A third provision would attempt to exempt medical…

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January 2018 Newsletter

Medical organizations paving the way for Senate consideration of liability reform Following House passage of comprehensive medical liability reform in 2017, medical organizations representing patients and physicians, including the HCLA, have taken a leading role in aiming their efforts at Senate consideration of the legislation. With a goal of reducing medical lawsuit abuse and enacting federal reforms that eliminate inconsistent and ever-changing state liability laws, specialty physician organizations and health care coalitions have emphasized the need to move forward on reform. Citing a need to compensate those patients who are truly the victims of medical negligence, American Association of Family Practitioners president Michael Munger, MD emphasized that reform is needed because “too much money is diverted from patient care to liability insurance premiums and the legal fees that are part of a lawsuit.” The bill under consideration relies on a history of success among states with the climate to enact such positive reforms. “This legislation adopts many of the reforms which have been thoroughly tested in the states and which have proven successful in improving the medical liability climate in those states,” stated the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons, also an HCLA member,…

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