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Reform Roll Call: Tracking
Medical Liability in Senate Health Bill
By now, readers of PPN’s newsletter probably know that the health care reform bill passed by the US Senate makes little mention or movement on reforming our nation’s broken medical liability system. However, it’s worthwhile for us to mention that there were several efforts by Republican Senators to protect patients from out-of-control personal injury lawyers:
• By a vote of 32-66, the Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., to cap the fees that plaintiffs’ lawyers can collect when they win a case. The amendment would have limited the lawyers to one-third of the first $150,000, and one-fourth of additional amounts above that. Click here to read more about Senator Ensign’s amendment.
• Senators Lindsay Graham & Saxby Chambliss introduced a “loser pays” amendment that would create a system of preliminary, non-binding arbitration for medical liability claims before they ever enter a courtroom. If one or both of the parties involved rejects the arbitrator’s decision, they can take the claim to court but are then subject to the ‘Loser Pays’ rule. The amendment was not considered for a vote. For more information on the Graham-Chambliss amendment, click here.
While the final bill still faces consideration by a conference between the House and Senate, the only medical liability provisions currently in place are “incentive payments” from the federal government to states for demonstration projects on medical liability reform. However, any state placing reasonable limits on non-economic damages (the only reform with a proven track record of success) or limiting attorneys’ fees are barred from eligibility for the incentive payments.
Protect Patients Now will continue to fight for medical liability reform to help hold down health care costs and preserve patient access to quality medical care.
Opening Pandora’s Box
As if the access to care crisis in Ohio wasn’t bad enough for patients, a medical liability case in that state could open a Pandora’s box of problems. The Supreme Court of Ohio is considering a case that has the potential to greatly expand physicians’ liability, creating an atmosphere conducive to medical lawsuit abuse.
The high court will decide whether patients can sue for additional damages in medical liability claims if they had more than a 50% chance of recovery before the alleged negligence.
According to a friend-of-the-court brief filed in October, physicians are concerned that the case will encourage more litigation and give plaintiffs an avenue for recovering damages, even if the underlying negligence claim is unsuccessful. To read more about this pending case in Ohio, click here.
Many Thanks and Happy New Year
Protect Patients Now would like to thank the readers of this newsletter for your commitment and support in 2009. This year has been busy one for medical liability reform supporters, and together we made great strides in educating the public about the need for medical liability reform. PPN thanks you and wishes you health and much happiness in 2010.