Category Archives: News

Medical malpractice an inconsistent system

The news that New York faces a current fiscal year budget deficit that could reach $1 billion and a deficit for the next fiscal year that could approach $10 billion is sobering for us all. Deficits of this magnitude will create difficult choices for Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo and the newly elected Legislature. New Yorkers already carry the highest tax burden in the country. We can no longer count upon new revenues to address this fiscal crisis. To close the deficit, all options to reduce spending must be on the table, including Medicaid and, indeed, all health care programs. New York can no longer accept the extraordinary costs incurred by taxpayers to sustain a failed system for resolving allegations of medical malpractice. This failed system has produced unsustainably high liability insurance premiums for New York physicians, among the very highest in the country, that threaten the ability of many physicians to provide the care our patients deserve and expect to receive. These enormous costs are the result of an unpredictable system for resolving allegations of medical malpractice. Many studies show that awards are given where no negligence occurred, while those truly injured by negligence often do not sue. As a result…

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OPINION: Alaska’s legal climate far from harsh

Obamacare has been passed with great fanfare, but many Americans, unsure how the massive government program will work for them, are taking to the streets voicing their protests. Personal injury lawyers, on the other hand, are drinking champagne and voicing their approval, because they know Obamacare will work well for them. The American Association for Justice (AAJ), formerly and more accurately called the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, is ecstatic that the health care bill lacks any provisions to protect doctors and hospitals from abusive lawsuits. One AAJ boss bragged about defeating tort-reform measures and blocking a cap on attorneys’ fees. Americans can thank the AAJ for thus explaining why health care is expensive and complicated now, and is certain to get more so under Obamacare, while lawyers’ profits are certain to rise. For a better path to reform, consider Alaska, a state that appreciates and welcomes doctors, instead of targeting them with predatory lawsuits. As the just-released U.S. Tort Liability Index: 2010 Report points out, Alaska has the sixth-lowest medical liability costs in the country, after controlling for the size of each state’s health care sector. In contrast, New York has the highest costs and alone accounted for…

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Health Groups Praise Second Bipartisan Debt Reduction Plan To Include Medical Liability Reform

WASHINGTON, DC – The Health Coalition on Liability and Access today praised the release of a second debt reduction plan to include proven medical liability reforms, such as reasonable limits on non-economic damages. The broad coalition of health groups is pleased that there is continued bipartisan recognition that these reforms will help reduce health care costs. “The HCLA applauds the work of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force for recognizing the need for medical liability reform,” HCLA Chair Mike Stinson said. “This is the second set of policy recommendations in as many weeks to underscore the role of reasonable limits on non-economic damages in reducing health care costs, and our national debt,” Stinson added. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force today released a report titled Restoring America’s Future. Chairing the study was former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici and econo-mist and former CBO Director Dr. Alice Rivlin. The bipartisan study put the cost savings of restraining total health care costs at $756 billion through 2020, partly due to limits on noneconomic and punitive damages in medical liability cases. While estimates of the true cost savings from liability reform vary, a conservative study in September’s Health Affairs…

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Health Groups Applaud Debt Commission Co-Chairs’ Support for Liability Reform

WASHINGTON, DC – The Health Coalition on Liability and Access today applauded the Co-Chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform for their endorsement of comprehensive medical liability reform in draft proposals of solutions to cut our national deficit over the next several decades. The coalition agrees that reform of our nation’s broken liability system should include reasonable limits on non-economic damages, which have a proven track record of success in states across the country. “The HCLA is pleased that the Co-Chairs of the President’s Debt Commission recognize the importance of comprehensive medical liability reform,” HCLA Chair Mike Stinson said. “Medical liability reform must be a priority for the new Congress. Reform will not only help reduce the cost of defensive medicine and our skyrocketing deficits, but it will preserve access to quality care for all Americans,” Stinson added. Chairmen Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, released an initial proposal yesterday that included plans to reduce health care costs – one of which is to “pay lawyers less and reduce the costs of defensive medicine by adopting comprehensive tort reform.” Estimates vary, but conservatively, a…

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Medical liability: Lawsuit chances take a toll

Our actions are influenced even when the odds are in our favor. So we save receipts (tax audit risk, 1 in 100), change the smoke detector battery (fire-related fatality odds, 1 in 1,235), and think twice about standing in the rain (chance of being struck by lightning, 1 in 6,250). When it comes to the chances physicians face in terms of being sued, a new AMA report shows they can expect a lawsuit not as matter of possibility, but of probability. More than half — almost 61% — of physicians older than 55 report having been sued. The behaviors that result from those odds should come as no surprise — such as defensive medicine and practice decisions to shield the doctor from risk. And those actions can significantly affect the cost of care and patient access. The AMA found that overall, 42.2% of the 5,825 surveyed physicians had been sued, with nearly a quarter of them hit with lawsuits twice or more. Obstetrician-gynecologists were among the most likely to be sued, and the measures they have taken as a result are predictable. In a 2009 survey, nearly a third of ob-gyns reported cutting back on high-risk obstetric patients, one of…

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Medical groups call to stop tax deduction for trial lawyers

The American Medical Association (AMA) and 90 other medical organizations on Thursday sent a letter to the Treasury Department expressing their opposition to a change in tax policy that would allow trial lawyers to deduct certain litigation expenses. “Changing the tax policy to allow trial lawyers to deduct court costs and other expenses would cost taxpayers $1.5 billion and increase the cost of health care in our nation,” former AMA President J. James Rohack, said in prepared remarks. “This change would encourage trial attorneys to file more lawsuits.” The Treasury is looking to change a provision in the tax code that would allow trial lawyers to deduct certain expenses for contingency cases in the year they are paid, which is when most businesses deduct expenses. Currently, trial lawyers can only deduct these expenses after their client fails to reimburse them. Groups like the American Association for Justice argue that clients are rarely expected to reimburse a law firm for expenses incurred and that attorneys should be able to deduct those costs from their taxes in the year they are paid. Rohack argues the tax change will lead to more lawsuits and force doctors to take additional precautions to ensure against…

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Gingrey & Fleming: Medical Liability Bill Key to Health Reform

Just over three months ago, President Barack Obama signed “ObamaCare” into law — with the promise that the reform bill would lower costs, increase access to quality care and preserve the great tradition of American medical care. Clearly, however, as has become more apparent every day since the bill became public law, ObamaCare will have none of these intended effects — due to both what is in the bill and what was left out. As physicians, we are acutely aware of the need to reform our health care system, particularly as it comes to cost containment. We must ensure that doctors can continue to treat their patients without going out of business, and patients — particularly seniors and those living in low-income households — can find the quality health care that they can afford. We both came to Congress with health care reform as our principal goal; thus, we have been understandably frustrated with what has happened to date. However, whatever our policy differences may be with the Democratic majority on the substance of health care reform — and they are significant — what continues to disturb both of us is the complete lack of attention paid to medical liability…

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Medical malpractice insurance bill clears House subpanel

A bill that would have the federal government cover medical malpractice costs for physicians who volunteer at community health centers cleared the Energy and Commerce panel’s health subcommittee on Thursday. The sponsors of the bipartisan Family Health Care Accessibility Act, Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Gene Green (D-Texas), say the bill would enable underserved communities to have access to care at minimal cost to the government. The bill extends to volunteers the medical liability protections currently offered by the Federal Tort Claims Act to physicians employed at community health centers. “Extending medical liability protections to volunteer physicians would result in more doctors and more patients being served at a lower cost to these centers,” Murphy said. “And the cost to do this is pennies on the dollar. It is estimated that extension of FTCA protection would cost the federal government just $1.5 million a year, but it would serve millions more new patients.” Murphy and Green say physicians who currently want to volunteer have to pay as much as $100,000 a year in medical malpractice insurance, making it too costly for them to do so. At the same time, the new healthcare reform law increased funding for community health centers…

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What happened to tort reform?

Ignoring tort reform does no one any justice and essentially drives up the cost we all pay. It wasn’t long ago that the Congressional Budget Office determined that medical liability reform, also known as tort reform, could save our country money in health-care spending. In fact, they said it could save a lot of money — in the range of $54 billion. That’s not chump change for anyone. So, many people were happy when the Obama administration heard the words of the CBO and announced that $25 million in funding would be provided to establish medical liability and patient safety demonstration projects and planning grants. This was ushered in with the many health-system reforms passed earlier this year in Washington. But now that the grants have been awarded, many across the nation are scratching their heads and asking, “What about tort-reform projects?” According to Pennsylvania Supreme Court data, 85.1 percent of medical malpractice claims that end up in front of a jury result in a decision for the defense. In other words, the doctors and hospitals tend to win and win often when they are wrongly sued, possibly a sign that too many claims are advancing that shouldn’t. Certainly when…

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Majority of physicians believe concerns over malpractice lawsuits result in “defensive medicine”

A survey by Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers has found that 91 percent of physicians believe concerns over malpractice lawsuits result in “defensive medicine,” ordering more tests and procedures than necessary as a protective measure. The study, which questioned 2,416 physicians, is published in the June 28 edition of Archives of Internal Medicine. A majority of physicians, 90.7 percent, also believe that better protections against unwarranted malpractice suits are needed in order to decrease the ordering of unnecessary medical tests. “About $60 billion is spent annually on defensive medicine and many physicians feel they are vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits even when they practice competently within the standard of care,” said Tara Bishop, MD, Associate, General Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and co-author of the study. “The study shows that an overwhelming majority of physicians support tort reform to decrease malpractice lawsuits and that unnecessary testing, a contributor to rising health care costs, will not decrease without it” Dr. Bishop, Salomeh Keyhani, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Health Evidence and Policy, and Alex Federman, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, General Internal Medicine, at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, conducted the national survey of physicians from a variety of practice…

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