Ask Congress to address COVID-19 liability now

The continued fight against the COVID-19 pandemic threatens our frontline medical professionals and the practices and facilities where they provide patient care with the potential for a flood of unwarranted medical liability lawsuits.

These issues are arising from circumstances beyond their control, and include workforce shortages, inadequate personal protective equipment, and delays in nonessential care resulting from public health guidance and government mandates issued during the pandemic.

Congress can and must take action, and HCLA has the resources for you to advocate on behalf of physicians and patients.

H.R. 3021, the Coronavirus Provider Protection Act, would grant targeted, limited immunity to pandemic responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 response and must be addressed before any future pandemic preparedness legislation.

Please visit our Protect Patients Now Action Center to urge your Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 3021 to provide critical federal liability protections to our frontline medical professionals and facilities, and, if you are represented by a Senator that sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, to request that the bill is included in any future pandemic-related legislation currently under consideration by the Committee.

Meaningful movement on Iowa liability reform

An effort to build up Iowa’s workforce extends to physicians and health care providers in a new bill that would improve the state’s medical liability climate.

Currently, the state has a ‘soft cap’ of $250,000 in non-economic damages in limited circumstances, leaving the door open for medical lawsuit abuse until a limit on non-economic damages exists in all cases. Of course, there are no limits on economic damages.

Companion bills in both the Iowa state House and Senate are making their way through relevant committees, with the House bill, HF 2279, pending a vote on the state House floor. Under the health care sections of the bills, the legislation maintains Iowa’s current $250,000 soft cap on non-economic damages and enacts a second $1 million limit for those cases where the soft cap would not apply.

Those in support of reasonably limiting non-economic damages to $1 million for cases outside of the scope of the $250,000 limit cite how the reforms would help lower insurance rates for doctors and allow hospitals and health care centers avoid costly verdicts in medical liability cases.

To read more about this priority for the Iowa legislature as the bills move closer to a full vote in the state House and Senate, click here.

Curbing defensive medicine in cardiac care

The American Heart Association published a scientific statement proposing solutions to address defensive medicine and low-value care, actions often taken to reduce the threat of medical liability lawsuits.

The statement, published in the Association’s journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, seeks to reduce low-value cardiovascular care and suggests areas for future research priorities through expert analysis.

AHA research found that nearly 50 percent of patients in the U.S. will receive at least one low-value test or procedure per year, and prior reporting from the National Academy of Medicine estimates that approximately $76-101 billion of annual health care spending in the U.S. may be considered unnecessary or wasteful. Much of these defensive practices are conducted because health care providers feel otherwise targeted by liability lawsuits.

The writing group conducted a thorough review of the medical and economic literature on low-value health care published since 2000 to describe the scope of low-value care in the U.S., specifically citing the need for payers and policy leaders to take action on “medical liability reform to reduce defensive medical practices.”

To read more about the prevalence of defensive medicine in cardiac care and the recognition that it drives up costs and adds to patient health risks, click here.