December 2014 Newsletter  
Protect Patients Now

Volume 9, Issue 12 December 2014 Newsletter


  Special points of interest:

Continuing Education: Surgeons Stay Informed on State of Medical Liability System
Looking Forward on Reform Efforts
Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season

Continuing Education: Surgeons Stay Informed on State of Medical Liability System

A new report by the American College of Surgeons keeps physicians up-to-date on the history and current state of the medical liability system and encourages education on policy issues that affect time in the operating room.

While traditional reforms (including reasonable limits on non-economic damages, periodic payments of damages, and statutes of limitations) are well-known and understood, surgeons are uncertain about how alternative solutions could affect their patients and their practice.

Now, facing a difficult legislative environment at the federal level, proponents of making changes to our broken medical liability system have begun to explore and rationalize non-traditional reforms that include protecting physicians who follow accepted guidelines of practice, arbitration or mediation, and communication and resolution programs.

Key to the argument in favor of reform is a need for initiatives to incorporate patient safety.

“The current toxic medical liability climate, however, promotes the exact opposite—it discourages open discussion of adverse events, stifles efforts to study the processes leading to them, and thereby makes preventing recurrence unlikely,” the report states.

The American College of Surgeons concludes by affirming its support of comprehensive medical liability reforms at the state and federal level, but assures its community of physicians that it will strongly support alternative reforms that hold the most promise of improving patient safety and protecting physicians from medical lawsuit abuse.

To read the American College of Surgeons report, click here.

Looking Forward on Reform Efforts

A recent Health Affairs blog post wraps up the outcome of California’s Proposition 46, where voters soundly defeated efforts by personal injury lawyers to increase limits on non-economic damages without any clear benefit to patients, but what lies ahead for the medical liability system remains unclear.

In the lead up to the vote on the ballot initiative, much was debated by regarding health care costs and patient safety, but the reality that it would have resulted in higher costs for patients and physicians was undisputed.

“From the standpoint of influencing average malpractice award sizes, raising the MICRA cap to $1.1 million would therefore be functionally similar to having no cap at all, and we estimate it would have raised average payments in paid malpractice claims by nearly 20 percent,” based on another recent study by Health Affairs.

In total, increasing the limit on non-economic damages could have increased health care spending in California by $1.7-$5.4 billion per year.

“While the evidence is compelling that raising the cap will result in higher health care costs, the implications for patient care are unclear,” write Seth Seabury, Eric Helland, and Anupam Jena.

But with a patchwork of laws that vary from state to state, and challenges to existing laws that ebb and flow with the changing political tide, we will continue to see, as the authors state, a “system [that] is inefficient and does a poor job of fairly and quickly compensating patients who receive negligent care.”

In the coming year, the Health Coalition on Liability and Access will work broadly across party lines to ensure that comprehensive efforts based on proven reforms move forward, and incorporate innovative solutions to protect patients and allow access to quality medical care.

To read the Health Affairs blog post in full, click here.

Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season

With the holiday season and a new year upon us, Protect Patients Now wishes health and happiness to you and your family.

Medical liability reform generated a great deal of attention during the elections and ballot initiatives in late 2014, and we look forward to a more favorable climate in Washington in 2015 to support the passage of comprehensive reform while also working with key allies to advance other potentially promising solutions.

We thank you for your continued support and look forward to working with you in the New Year. Together, we stop medical lawsuit abuse and protect patients now.