Shining a light on third-party financing of liability lawsuits

Opinion leaders in the Sunshine State are pushing for the legislature to shed light on third-party financing of medical liability lawsuits, calling for a special legislative session to curb this practice, which all too frequently serves the needs of personal injury lawyers rather than patients.

Two separate opinion pieces have highlighted the unfinished business of the Florida legislature in addressing this aspect of liability reform.

While the state has recently freed itself from its Judicial Hellhole moniker and is trending towards a more favorable medical liability climate, advocates for reform are focusing on the far-reaching effects of third-party financing.

A guest op-ed in the Florida Daily draws attention to the fact that these shadow financiers often do not have the patients’ best interests in mind, as they “often keep lawsuits going even if the plaintiff wants to accept a settlement…and have taken over decisions on the direction of the case.”

A second piece by Sam Elliott of Floridians for Government Accountability notes that Florida law “continues to lack proper and necessary disclosures, so that everyone—including the judge and all opposing parties—are fully aware when a lawsuit is being financed by a third party.”

Both opinion pieces draw attention to the urgent nature of this issue and the policies that should be considered in a special legislative session.

Click here to read the op-ed from the Florida Daily, and here to read the piece from Tallahassee Reports.

Help wanted: Growing OB-GYN shortage harming women’s access to care

An OB-GYN shortage is here and growing, and along with it, women’s inability to access critical care and reproductive health care services.

An article in The Hill highlights physician workforce trends that will lead to inequitable disparities across the U.S. As recently as six years ago, there were 50,800 practicing OB-GYNs, which was deemed insufficient to meet rising demand. Projections show even 3,000 fewer OB-GYNs will be practicing by 2030.

While a number of underlying factors are to blame, the threat of medical liability lawsuits and the cost of liability insurance are continuing to drive doctors away from the field of women’s health care, as they opt to retire early or practice in other specialties.

“Obstetrics comes with its challenges of hours and liability issues, so we see people dropping the obstetrics part of their practice a little earlier and then doing what is called GYN-only practice,” Stella Dantas, president-elect of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said.

According to a Medscape report published last year, OB-GYNs are the second most frequently sued class of physicians in the country, resulting in exorbitantly high malpractice insurance rates. In the most extreme climates, OB-GYNs in places like Illinois and New York pay upwards of $170,000 a year in malpractice insurance premiums alone.

Without correcting course and implementing policies that encourage physicians to enter OB-GYN practice and then continue in that career, access to maternal and infant health services is expected to worsen.

To read more about the looming OB-GYN shortage and the need for medical liability reform to increase access to care, click here.

Fear, perception of sky-high jury awards impacting orthopaedic surgeons

Fear, perception of sky-high jury awards impacting orthopaedic surgeons

Recent analysis of medical liability lawsuits related to orthopaedic surgeons highlights the risk that remains, even if sky-high jury awards are often reduced on appeal.

An overview of high-profile orthopaedic cases in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research brings physicians’ attention to the wide-ranging impacts of large awards.

“Large jury verdicts add system costs from higher malpractice insurance premiums and increased expenses for patients,” study author B. Sonny Bal MD, JD, MBA, PhD writes.

While the study author expresses that fear of growing jury verdicts is more of a perception issue given the possibility of reduction on appeal, he acknowledges how this contributes to a change in physician behavior.

“Fear of financial loss can drive healthcare providers to avoid high-risk cases and certain subspecialties, reducing access to care. Malpractice concerns can also lead to provider burnout and drive unnecessary testing from defensive medical practices,” Bal summarizes.

Even if such awards are struck down, what remains are the access to care impacts that result from the fear of being named in a liability lawsuit. To read more on the analysis of selected sky-high jury verdicts and the impact on providers, click here.

HCLA annual meeting highlights liability trends, emerging issues

Late last month, the Health Coalition on Liability and Access gathered its members and leadership team for an annual meeting focused on emerging issues affecting medical liability and access to care.

Members had an opportunity to hear speakers from both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Washington Physicians Health Program (WPHP) to better understand the underlying liability climates at both the state and the federal levels.

Wes Cleveland of the AMA covered ongoing state activity and tracking of state legislative proposals, as well as the ballot initiatives set to go before Colorado voters this November. This included a review of escalating jury awards, showing a growing need for medical liability reform to guard against medical lawsuit abuse.

The AMA has also been at the forefront of advocacy on Augmented Intelligence (AI) for health care purposes, and the meeting attendees benefited from the expertise of Lisa Myers, who has been working on developing positions and resources as AI adoption grows among health care providers.

This AI update included background and recent regulatory activity across various levels of government, evolving perspectives on adoption, and present and future liability considerations for providers.

Another important issue affecting both physicians and patients was addressed by Christopher Bundy of the Washington Physicians Health Program. The WPHP has developed innovative programs to facilitate the rehabilitation of healthcare professionals with health conditions that could compromise patient safety and to monitor their recovery.

The HCLA and its member organizations will continue to monitor and advocate for the reforms necessary to address both longstanding and emerging issues that threaten liability climates and patient access to quality medical care.