Lifting liability limits in New Mexico could take medical system from bad to worse

Already ranking two spots from the bottom on access to health care when compared to all U.S. states, New Mexico patients now face another obstacle if personal injury attorneys have their way.

Challenges stemming from a rural landscape, an aging population, and low physician pay influencing recruitment already make it difficult for patients to access affordable health care. Making things worse is an attempt to raise reasonable limits on non-economic damages to $2 million for individual physicians and $25 million for medical entities, which includes many small practices.

Michael Kaufman, MD, of Taos Medical Group, who has practiced internal medicine in Taos for more than 40 years, expressed what many fellow practitioners were feeling: “If this goes through,
we’re out of here.”

Dr. Kaufman cited an impossible operating environment for a four-physician, three-nurse practitioner practice due to higher insurance premiums required to remain covered under an increased limit.

While the measure was defeated – for now – due to overwhelming opposition by the healthcare community demonstrating their concern for their patients’ access to healthcare, it remains likely to be introduced again in the future.

Click here to learn more about the how lifting liability limits would be harmful to New Mexico patients.

Kansas liability ruling could have ripple effect for patients, lawsuit abuse

Striking down medical liability reforms in Kansas may just be the first domino to fall in the state’s health care system, with side effects that impact patients and access to care while fueling meritless lawsuits.

Earlier this month, the state’s Supreme Court ruled 4-2 that limiting non-economic damages was unconstitutional.

Physicians and health care providers worry that without these limits, there is no way to hold down insurance costs that are ultimately passed on to patients, nor to safeguard against activist juries that award huge verdicts of non-economic damages.

Jon Rosell, the executive director of the Kansas Medical Society, believes that higher medical malpractice insurance premiums might make it too expensive for some doctors to practice in Kansas’s rural communities.

“We think that this decision begins a series of dominos that will fall where ultimately the Kansas patient will be impacted,” he said.

Without federal medical liability reforms, rulings such as this one in Kansas will continue to play out across the country due to the powerful political influence of the personal injury lawyer lobby.

To read more about the Kansas ruling and its effects on the state health care system, click here.

Missing the mark on reform efforts

A New York Times piece on a ‘missed opportunity’ for patient safety efforts instead missed the mark on stakeholders pursuing serious changes – and the legal fixes that must accompany them.

The commentary stems from a belief that the liability system is “doing almost nothing to improve quality of care.”

Rebutting this premise was HCLA member, the MPL Association, in a letter to the editor.

Highlighting the efforts of the MPL Association insurance member companies, the letter to the editor described analysis of claims that have improved the quality of stroke prevention, diagnostic processes, and breast cancer detection efforts.

The letter also noted that legal side of the MPL system is what is truly failing. “…Data collected by the Medical Professional Liability Association shows that 70% of liability claims filed are deemed not meritorious by the courts and, thus, are not paid. These cases show a broken medical liability system,” the response stated.

The response emphasized further work that must be done – and that “true reform requires fixing the legal system as well.”

To read the New York Times article on liability reform and patient safety, click here.