Brazen tax break sought in Build Back Better

Personal injury attorneys are attempting to further line their pockets at the expense of patients by pushing for a tax break that encourages medical lawsuit abuse.

Buried in the drafts of the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better legislation is a provision long-sought by personal injury attorneys that would allow them to deduct legal expenses as soon as they are incurred yet prior to a court ruling — costs that would be eligible for recovery if a lawsuit is decided in the plaintiff’s favor.

This one-sided tax break would potentially fund meritless lawsuits through taxpayer dollars.

“The ability to immediately write-off costs the lawyer expects to recoup later on also provides a natural incentive to bring more speculative lawsuits by having the government share the financial risks involved,” writes Victor E. Schwartz, co-chair of the Public Policy Group of the law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon, LLP.

Even as Build Back Better awaits further action by Congress, Schwartz speculates that, as in prior administrations, the same outcome could be made via regulatory change at the Treasury Department.

“While legislative proposals draw attention, the real trial lawyer lobbying work may be at the Treasury Department to change rules behind the scenes without public scrutiny,” Schwartz shares, urging visibility on this brazen attempt to build out a pipeline of litigation instead of the stated economic intent of the bill.

To read more about how these tax breaks could help personal injury attorneys and harm patients and taxpayers, click here.

Emergency fix to New Mexico liability laws comes before year-end

A flurry of legislative activity occurred in New Mexico before the end of the year, addressing a critical concern that independent physicians would not be covered by liability insurance come 2022.

A coalition of plaintiffs’ lawyers, hospital officials, physicians and patient advocates agreed that a recently passed medical liability bill needed further changes to address the insurance concerns of physician-owned small businesses.

The coalition supported legislation in a special session that sought to eliminate questions about the legal liability of independent doctors, including surgeons who practice at various hospitals.

The governor of New Mexico promptly signed the fix into law.

“Supporting New Mexico’s medical providers and protecting the patients they serve is important business,” said Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. “I’m glad to have the chance to sign into law this common-sense fix, and I’m grateful to the Legislature for their quick action on this matter.”

The New Mexico Medical Society welcomed the quick action on behalf of patients across the rural state.

“Our governor and state legislature worked together under urgent circumstances to preserve access to healthcare for thousands of New Mexican patients and prevent the closure of dozens of physician-owned small businesses,” said Executive Director Annie Jung. “Their quick and decisive action saved lives.”

To read more about the legislative action that will benefit access to care in New Mexico, click here.

Continuation of liability threats leads Florida legislature to act on protections

With COVID-19 liability protections set to expire in March, the Florida legislature has mobilized against the continued threat to front-line providers in an effort to reduce medical lawsuit abuse.

Earlier this month, the Florida House Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee held a hearing to extend those liability protections through June of 2023, and identical legislation has now passed the state Senate.

The chairwoman of the House HHS committee, Representative Colleen Burton, cited the continued rise of COVID-19 variants, stating that “It is vitally important that we continue to protect our front-line workers as they fight the pandemic.”

The protections in both chambers’ bills apply in the following situations:

  • Diagnosis or failure to diagnose COVID-19;
  • Provision of experimental treatments;
  • Transmission of the virus;
  • Delay or cancellation of tests, procedures, or emergency treatment because a facility is overwhelmed with COVID patients; and
  • Exacerbation of preexisting conditions by COVID.

Importantly, there are no protections for situations involving gross negligence.

Groups currently supporting the bills include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Medical Association, the Florida Health Care Association, the Florida Assisted Living Association, and the National Federation of Independent Business.

“This has not lowered the standard of care,” said David Mica Jr. of the Florida Hospital Association.

“Our front-line workers are taxed on every single way that they can handle. What we hope is that this limited exemption that y’all provided last year, that we can extend that to protect against frivolous lawsuits,” he said.

To read more about the necessary protections under consideration for Florida health care providers, click here.