Republican Health Care Task Force Offers Medical Liability Solutions for Patients, Physicians

New health care reforms, including medical liability proposals, were introduced last week by the Republican Health Care Task Force and formally kicked off initiatives that will guide the legislative activities in a new Congress, with a new administration.

Led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, the health care reform framework and proposal offered by Republicans aims to empower patients, make the health system more accessible and affordable, and spur medical innovation.

“We know that comprehensive medical liability reform that includes caps on non-economic damages will improve patients’ access to quality care while reducing the overall cost of health care in America,” the report states. “Our plan will include liability reform that includes caps on non-economic damage awards, ensuring plaintiffs can recover full economic damages and that patients will not have their damages taken away by excessive lawyer contingency fees.”
These reforms have proven effective in states like California and Texas, where patients have greater access to critical care, and health care costs and liability premiums remain affordable.

“The HCLA will work with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, as well as the new administration, to bring together leaders that will make these patient protection efforts a reality,” said Mike Stinson, HCLA chair. “Reducing medical lawsuit abuse, maintaining the integrity of the liability system for deserving patients and preserving patient access to care remain central to the mission of our health care coalition, and we’re pleased that many of the ideas in the task force’s plan are already embraced in a bipartisan way.”

The report also included proposals of state-based reforms, in order to pursue non-traditional ways to reduce medical lawsuit abuse and health care costs.

To read the full analysis of medical liability reform in the Republican health care plan, click here.

Small Changes Have Big Results to PA Liability Climate

Ten years ago, physicians in Pennsylvania found themselves at the mercy of relentless personal injury attorneys looking to exploit the state’s health care system. Now, they have the upper hand against medical lawsuit abuse, thanks to small changes that have had a big impact.

In 2004, Pennsylvania juries ruled on 449 medical liability cases, supporting the defendant three-quarters of the time. In 2015, the tables were turned. With just over 101 verdicts, three-quarters of all rulings were in favor of the hospital or health care provider.

The reduction in the number of medical liability cases is no coincidence.

It began when the state passed reasonable laws requiring a certificate of merit from a medical expert, and required that lawsuits be filed in the county where the alleged negligence occurred.

Today, only legitimate cases move forward, efficiently resolving cases for deserving patients. Personal injury lawyers can no longer abuse the liability system by shopping cases from county to county, hoping to hit jackpot justice.

“Clearly, plaintiffs’ attorneys were seeking friendly court venues in Pennsylvania, and that was primarily Philadelphia,” said John Krah, executive director of the Allegheny County Medical Society. “If you could get your case moved to Philadelphia, your chances of winning — and winning a substantial amount — were greatly increased.”

The pendulum in Pennsylvania has now swung in favor of deserving patients and physicians and away from those abusing our medical liability system. To read more about how reforms led to big benefits to patients in Pennsylvania, click here.

Arkansas Patient Protection Advocates Closer to Vote on Liability Laws

Access to care advocates, facing long odds of enacting change through the Arkansas Legislature, are pushing for patients across the state to support efforts to bring medical liability reforms to a ballot measure this fall.

Endorsed by the Arkansas Health Care Association and the Arkansas Medical Society, supporters of the initiative now have half of the 130,000 signatures they need to qualify as a referendum.

The initiative seeks to end excessive attorney fees by limiting them to 33.3 percent of payments in cases that are decided in favor of deserving patients who have experienced true negligence. It would also place reasonable limits of $250,000 on non-economic damages, with the limit subject to evaluation every two years, based on inflation.

Seeing the benefits to neighboring patients in Texas, through lower costs and an increase in the number of physicians, proponents of reform are feeling positive about their chances of passing similar initiatives in Arkansas.

To read more about efforts to gain the support of voters and enact meaningful medical liability reforms, click here.

Senate Bill Encourages Good Samaritans to Treat Disaster Victims

Complementing efforts in the House of Representatives to protect disaster volunteers from medical lawsuit abuse is a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate by Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) and Angus King (I-ME).

Like its companion bill in the House, the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act would help protect medical volunteers from lawsuits during a large-scale disaster. It would maintain vital health care services that ensure disaster victims are able to receive urgent care, without altering liability laws that may currently exist in a particular state.

Senator Cassidy – a physician – speaks from experience. He worked in Louisiana’s charity hospital system for nearly 30 years, and was a driving force in organizing volunteers to treat Hurricane Katrina victims in temporary facilities.

“When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, temporary hospitals were set up and medical professionals from across the US came to treat patients. We needed them, they saved lives. If another disaster occurs in Louisiana, or in any state, the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act ensures medical professionals have a certain level of legal protection—an asset when encouraging volunteers to come to a disaster area,” said Dr. Cassidy.

While medical professionals have expressed a willingness to volunteer in the wake of a crisis or natural disaster, there have been instances where some were turned away or limited in their ability to provide assistance because of the threat of medical liability lawsuits.

The House version of the bill, HR 865, currently has 46 cosponsors. The HCLA will work with both the House and Senate sponsors of the bills to gather more bipartisan support for this commonsense approach ensuring access to care to disaster victims. To read more about the bill introduced by Senators King and Cassidy, click here.