HCLA continues push for COVID-19 liability protections

2020 was another active year for HCLA advocacy. Although this year’s final COVID-19 stimulus legislation failed to include liability protections for healthcare providers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, HCLA will continue its advocacy into the new year to actively push for these necessary measures at the federal level.

Letters were sent to individual members of the Senate COVID-19 bi-partisan working group in early December that highlighted four key principles and beliefs of the HCLA and its member organizations:

  • Liability protections should apply to all care affected by the pandemic, including care that was altered due to government guidance, and not just to care for COVID-19 patients or suspected patients;
  • Liability protections should be for a limited duration;
  • Liability protections should be limited to care provided under the scope of licensure/certification, but not limited to normal scope of practice; and
  • Care that constitutes gross negligence or willful misconduct should not be protected.

Accompanying the letters were recommendations that highlighted existing bills in each chamber (S. 4317 — the SAFE TO WORK Act and H.R. 7059 — the Coronavirus Provider Protection Act) and adjustments to the bills that would maintain the necessary protections for those providing critical healthcare services as the pandemic continues.

“Without such protections, these heroes, who faced unprecedented conditions and often conflicting government guidance during the pandemic’s outbreak, face a rash of unwarranted litigation in the coming years,” the recommendation outline states. “We therefore recommend including either bill in the bipartisan COVID-19 relief proposal.”

While the final federal package, unfortunately, did not include liability protections for healthcare providers and systems, the HCLA will continue to push for legislation addressing these shortcomings early in the 117th Congress that begins in 2021.

Click here to read the advocacy letters and key points made by the HCLA in early December, and here for the HCLA COVID-19 resource page that highlights news and efforts to enact protections at the state level.

The pain of Iowa’s liability crisis

The Iowa Medical Society has detailed the pain of the liability crisis across the state with an updated infographic and resource that highlights the disparity in economic and non-economic damages.

With five out of seven neighboring states having comprehensive liability laws in place, Iowa is an outlier in the Midwest — and patients are paying the price.

According to the Iowa Medical Society, the sharp jump in judgments and payouts has placed “small, rural facilities in financial peril.” This comes as physicians and hospital systems max out liability coverage, drain reserve funds, and erase operating margins, thus threatening the healthcare systems’ ability to provide care.

The one-pager provided a snapshot of five cases over the past four years that highlighted the weight excessive awards are placing on the liability system.

Of the $84 million in damages paid out in the five cases highlighted, 75% – over $63 million – was for non-economic damages. In three of the cases highlighted, no economic damages, including medical damages, were awarded at all.

The Iowa Medical Society will continue to push in the upcoming legislative session for reforms that take the pain out of the liability system to benefit patients across the state. To learn more about the impact of these extreme awards on Iowa’s liability system, click here.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year

As we close out a very challenging 2020, the light of 2021 shines bright – and we have our medical professionals to thank. The tireless support and the guidance from scientists, researchers, and healthcare providers gives us promise and hope that the harsh realities of a global pandemic will soon be behind us.

Liability protection for those who have served as the first line of defense against the COVID-19 pandemic is more important than ever to emerge stronger and remove any lingering liability side effects from such a devastating disease.

We wish our readers and supporters a happy, healthy New Year and thank you for your support of liability initiatives this year, on behalf of patients everywhere.