Protect Patients Now

Volume 7, Issue 6 June 2012 Newsletter


Special points of interest:

Reform Reset: Supreme Court Decision Offers Opportunity for Medical Liability Fixes
Innovation Stifled by Defensive Medicine
Results are in – and Americans Understand High Cost of Broken Liability System

Supreme Court Decision Offers Opportunity for Medical Liability Fixes

Following today’s landmark decision to largely uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Health Coalition on Liability and Access will move forward on a new opportunity to make immediate changes to a medical liability system that works for neither patients nor physicians.

“As Congress continues to address the important health care issues facing this nation, any reform efforts must include fixing our country’s broken medical liability system,” said HCLA Chairman Mike Stinson. “Comprehensive medical liability reform is an important patient issue, and a critical component to making health care affordable and accessible to all,” Stinson continued.

The portion of the bill related to the individual mandate was upheld, but other provisions related to state Medicaid funding were found to be unconstitutional.

While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act did not include comprehensive medical liability reforms, medical liability reform legislation has passed in the House of Representatives 12 times since 1995 – most recently in March of this year.

The Congressional Budget Office has determined that the medical liability reform provisions of the recently passed HEALTH Act (H.R. 5) would reduce the deficit by $45.5 billion over the next 10 years.

“It’s time to put politics aside and do what’s right for patients. The American people believe their access to affordable, high-quality health care is threatened because medical liability costs are forcing good doctors out of medicine – and they want Congress to do something about it. The HCLA is committed to working with Members of Congress in both the House and the Senate to ensure that we pass a health care bill that preserves patient access to quality medical care, and reduces costs through medical liability reform,” Stinson added.

Innovation Stifled by Defensive Medicine

Patients seeking access to vital and life-saving medical services expect, and deserve, 21st century care and the implementation of medical advancements by their physicians and hospitals.

Instead, the high cost of defensive medicine and the threat of meritless lawsuits funnels money away from innovation and information technology efforts that would streamline health care delivery services and increase positive outcomes for patients.

This is just another example of how a broken medical liability system is harming patients, a panel of representatives from private health care systems testified in a Senate hearing last month.

Lee Sacks, a physician and chief medical officer of Illinois’ Advocate Health Care system, explained that the costs are staggering – and only continue to increase. In 2011, Advocate spent $90 million on liability costs, and because the state’s Supreme Court struck down liability reforms, those costs will increase to $190 million for 2012.

“…That’s an extra $100 million that’s not being reinvested in patient care in our organization,” Dr. Sacks said.

Paul Diaz, CEO of Kindred Healthcare, a health system that operates in 40 states, said the money it invests in medical liability protections “does a lot to take away from the [information technology] budget and other innovation budgets that we have.”

Reforming our nation’s broken medical liability system and investing in innovation, instead of meaningless lawsuits, means patients are protected and have access to the best quality care. Click here to read more about the impact defensive medicine is having on advancements in the practice of medicine.

Results are in – and Americans Understand High Cost of Broken Liability System

Polls consistently show that most Americans understand the toll that our nation’s broken medical liability system is taking on health care costs and accessibility, and a new survey by Common Good further underscores just how important this issue is to patients.

Across the political spectrum, 75 percent of respondents agreed that “lawsuits and legal fees are a major cause of high medical insurance rates” and nearly 70 percent said that good doctors are forced to retire early or leave the practice of medicine because of the high frequency of lawsuits and the cost of liability insurance.

Another key finding of the report was the broad support for specialized health courts to handle medical liability cases. Two-thirds of those surveyed were in support of the health courts that could expedite claims and ensure that the system works for deserving patients.

“Americans know they’re paying unnecessary health care costs because our system of medical justice is unreliable,” said Philip K. Howard, Chair of Common Good. “It’s time to end the waste – tens of billions annually – and create reliable health courts.”

While the HCLA and Protect Patients Now support alternative reforms to a liability system that works for neither patients nor their physicians, we will continue to push for comprehensive and proven remedies, including a reasonable limit on non-economic damages. To read the full results of the recent poll by Common Good, click here.

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