June 2017 Newsletter

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  • June 29, 2017


Patient access to care scores a win in Washington

The passage of comprehensive medical liability reform legislation this week in Washington gives patients and physicians a win on access to affordable care.

H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, passed the House by a vote of 218 to 210, and enacts reasonable limits on non-economic damages while modeling the common-sense reforms of states like Texas and California.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the comprehensive medical liability reforms included in H.R. 1215 would lead to cost savings of $44 billion over the 2017-2026 period for federal health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and reduce the national deficit by almost $50 billion over the same 10-year period.

The Protect Patients Now grassroots network was activated over the past month and was instrumental in gathering support for the bill. Nearly 650 emails were sent to members of Congress, with many others taking to Facebook and Twitter to advocate for support of medical liability reform.

“Our broken medical liability system is one step closer to more efficiently and equitably compensating deserving patients and reducing the medical lawsuit abuse that undermines the physician-patient relationship,” said HCLA Chair Mike Stinson. “I applaud the House for making comprehensive medical liability reform and patient access to care a high-priority health care policy initiative this Congress and encourage the Senate to quickly do the same.”

To read more about the Protecting Access to Care Act, click here.

New York personal injury lawyers push for bigger paydays

New York personal injury lawyers are lobbying to take a larger share of liability payments meant for deserving patients – a new low for a state long known to have an unfriendly medical liability climate.

In a bill being rushed through the legislature prior to recess, attorney fees would increase to 30 percent of the first $1 million recovered, 25 percent of the next $250,000, and 20 percent of any amount over $1.25 million in cases decided by the end of 2019. By 2020, attorneys would be allowed to collect 33 percent of a patient’s financial recovery.

Patient protection advocates unequivocally oppose the bill, introduced as A08521 and S06803, in the Assembly and Senate, respectively.

“This is a gift to the trial lawyers. The bill would directly take money from injured victims and give it the trial lawyers,” said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.

“It’s bad enough that this bill would drastically worsen hospitals’ already sky-high medicalmalpractice costs, but it’s downright shameless that it doesn’t even pretend to help injured patients. Albany should emphatically reject it,’ said Brian Conway, spokesman for the Greater New York Hospital Association.

To read more about the legislation that further enriches personal injury attorneys at the expense of patients, click here.

Florida patients face uncertainty after liability reforms deemed unconstitutional

Medical liability reform – and the patients that these reforms are crafted to help – are left hanging in the balance following a decision by the Florida Supreme Court to overturn a medical liability reform laws passed in 2003.

The Court ruled that reasonable limits of $500,000 on non-economic damage awards in cases of injury were unconstitutional.

Three justices voted in favor of the constitutionality of the legislature working to craft policy in the best interest of the public.

Writing that the majority opinion “discards and ignores all of the Legislature’s work and factfinding,” the dissenting justices agreed that “it is the Legislature’s task to decide whether a medical malpractice crisis exists, whether a medical malpractice crisis has abated, and whether the Florida statutes should be amended accordingly.”

While federal medical liability reform would eliminate uncertainty and the patchwork of laws that exist from state to state, patients across Florida remain in limbo until a federal solution is signed into law.

To read more about the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling against liability reform, click here.