Protect Patients Now

Volume 8, Issue 1 January 2013 Newsletter


Special points of interest:

Long Liability Process Keeps Patients in the Waiting Room
New Year’s Resolution for Reform in Missouri
State Briefs

Long Liability Process Keeps Patients in the Waiting Room

Medical lawsuit abuse and a broken medical liability system are leaving injured patients without the compensation they need and deserve, and physicians spending too much time in the courtroom instead of the exam room.

A new study in this month’s Health Affairs details the lengthy process physicians and patients are forced to endure and its effects on the quality of care they receive.

The study determined that the average physician spends over 50 months, or about 11 percent, of their career with a pending liability claim. The average neurosurgeon fares much worse and can expect to spend 11 years of their assumed 40-year career facing an open claim.

Underscoring the extent to which our liability system is broken, nearly 70 percent of those open claims studied resulted in no indemnity payments at all.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that “lengthier time to resolution affects physicians through added stress, work, and reputational damage, as well as loss of time dealing with the claim instead of practicing medicine.” And commentary in the New York Times agreed, stating, “…doctors may in fact be underestimating the extent to which malpractice not only consumes their time but also undermines their ability to care for patients.”

Without comprehensive medical liability reform, patients with legitimate claims and physicians who have done no harm will suffer – and wait far too long for closure. You can click here [pdf] to read the full study in this month’s Health Affairs, and here for a New York Times piece on the effect a liability lawsuit had on one radiologist.

New Year’s Resolution for Reform in Missouri


Missouri lawmakers have resolved to make changes in the state’s broken medical liability system this year, following an adverse decision by the state Supreme Court to strike down reasonable limits on non-economic damages. Fortunately for patients, both a Republican controlled legislature and Democratic Governor Jay Nixon are in agreement on the need to act.

Supporters of reinstating the 2005 damages cap have proposed constitutional amendments and suggested legislation that would allow for the statutory right to sue in order for deserving patients to continue to seek damages in legitimate cases.

Jeff Howell, the Missouri State Medical Association’s director of government relations and general counsel, said doctors’ insurance premiums and health care costs are likely to increase without a limit on liability. Missouri would also likely see an exodus of physicians, similar to other states with unfriendly liability laws on the books.

With Democrats and Republicans working together, medical liability reform is a resolution that can actually be kept this year. Click here to read more about Missouri’s medical liability proposals.

State Briefs

  • In a follow up to last month’s news that two medical liability reform bills had passed the Michigan House and Senate, governor Rick Snyder swiftly signed them into law earlier this month. The bills clarify Michigan’s non-economic damage limits and protect patients from excessive attorneys’ fees. Click here to read more.
  • Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, in his Condition of the State address, called for liability reform and limits on non-economic damages to ensure access to critical care throughout the state. Read more here.