Protect Patients Now

Volume 6, Issue 6 June 2011 Newsletter


Special points of interest:

Liability Reform — A Texas Triumph
HEALTH Act Introduced in the Senate
State Reform Roundup
Going Social

Liability Reform — A Texas Triumph

A new study detailing the extent to which medical liability lawsuits decreased after Texas passed sweeping reforms to its liability system reveals to patients and physicians throughout the state why they should be happy to call the Lone Star State home.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found a nearly 80% decrease in surgical liability lawsuits at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio since reform was enacted in 2003.

From 1992 to 2004, about 40 suits were filed for every 100,000 procedures, dropping to just eight per 100,000 surgeries post-reform.

Most striking is the amount of money the medical center was able to save, as legal costs associated with lawsuits decreased from $595,000 a year to just $515 per year in the years following the passage of comprehensive medical liability reform.

Without the threat of meritless lawsuits hanging over their heads, Texas physicians can focus on providing the best possible care to their patients and keeping health care costs low. Now that’s a triumph for all Texans.

Click here to read more about how medical liability reform is paying dividends in Texas nearly eight years after being signed into law.

HEALTH Act Introduced in the Senate

While the HEALTH Act awaits a floor vote by the full House of Representatives, Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) have picked up the baton and introduced identical medical liability reform legislation in the Senate.

The Senate’s version of the HEALTH Act, S. 1099, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Although the chance of comprehensive medical liability reform passing through the Senate is less likely than in the House, Protect Patients Now urges all Senators to take a new look at the bill and its effect on states like Texas – where the turnaround in access to care and the health care savings following the passage of liability reform have been remarkable.

To read S. 1099, click here. You may also visit our Contact Congress page to e-mail, call, or tweet your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor the HEALTH Act.

State Reform Roundup

In Tennessee, where Republicans took complete control of state government for the first time since 1869, Governor Bill Haslam signed legislation earlier this month that places a $750,000 limit on non-economic damages in medical liability cases.

Governor Haslam hopes that reform will protect patients and businesses alike. “We wanted to make sure we did everything we could to protect victims’ rights, but also have a predictable playing field for businesses,” said Governor Haslam.

To read more about the strong progress Tennessee is making against medical lawsuit abuse, click here.

Following a legal challenge, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the state’s reasonable limits on non-economic damages are constitutional.

The court found “no basis” that the state’s $250,000 limit on non-economic damages was unconstitutional and ruled that it did not limit a defendant’s right to a trial by jury.

This is good news for patients in West Virginia, with the West Virginia Board of Medicine reporting that the number of new doctors in the state has been on a recent increase and that there has been a 50-percent drop in suits filed since reforms took effect in 2003.

Read more about the ruling that affirms the constitutionality of reasonable limits on non-economic damages and other liability reforms by clicking here.

On the other end of the spectrum, an appeals court in Ohio mounted an assault on an important element of liability reform by overturning a law that maintains a four-year statute of limitations in liability claims.

The court allowed a defendant’s claim of negligence to move forward, despite the alleged incident occurring 10 years prior to filing the lawsuit.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, the Ohio State Medical Association stated, “This evisceration of the statute of repose will affect the ability of every Ohio hospital, physician and medical provider to plan for the future, given the omnipresent specter of unknown old medical claims that could be filed at any time.”

The state Supreme Court will now decide whether to review the case. To read more about this ruling that has the potential to expose Ohio doctors to a tidal wave of never-ending lawsuits, click here.

Going Social

Protect Patients Now and the HCLA are expanding our growing grassroots advocacy network through Facebook and Twitter! Now, you can keep track of the latest news on the liability reform front with up-to-the-minute videos, studies, and updates on our social networking pages.

Follow us on Facebook at Protect Patients Now/HCLA, or on Twitter at @PPN_HCLA.

By joining Protect Patients Now and the HCLA on Facebook and Twitter, you can connect with fellow supporters of liability reform and have a greater impact on our efforts to stop medical lawsuit abuse, rein in health care costs, and safeguard patient access to medical care.

You can also share our monthly newsletter and other e-mail alerts with your Facebook friends by clicking the “Like” button on the top left corner of our emails.

Click here to visit our Facebook page, and here to follow us on Twitter. You are an essential part of our advocacy efforts and grassroots network, and we appreciate your support of our efforts to Protect Patients Now.

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