Advocates for Westchester County’s medical practitioners and businesses burdened by health care costs said they’ll make medical malpractice liability a key target of their lobbying and reform efforts in 2012. “Medical liability reform will always be a major priority of the county and the state medical society,” said Brian O. Foy, executive director of the Westchester County Medical Society. On the Westchester County Association’s Blue Ribbon Task Force for Healthcare Reform, “We’re certainly going to look at malpractice reform,” said Amy Allen, WCA managing director for advocacy and international business. She said the task force is waiting to see bills introduced in the 2012 legislative session in Albany that it can support to address the issue. New York physicians in 2011 came close to seeing progress in curbing malpractice awards that have resulted in exorbitant and onerous liability insurance premiums for their profession. Gov. Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team proposed to cap awards for non-economic damages in malpractice cases at $250,000. That would have resulted in an estimated 24 percent decrease in malpractice insurance premiums for physicians and hospitals statewide. The state’s financially struggling hospitals would have saved an estimated $384 million. “We believe that cap is the Holy Grail in terms of stabilizing the system,” Foy said. But the cap was dropped from the team’s final package of cost-saving measures. “We were disappointed,” he said. In Albany this year, “We’re going to try to build on the momentum from last year,” he said. Foy said scope of practice – that is, health care professionals without medical degrees performing traditional physicians’ work – “continues to be a hot-button issue in the medical community. We need to make sure the boundaries are very clear when allied health professionals want to legislate their scope.” Foy said the state and county medical societies will lobby again this year for legislation allowing physicians in solo or small group practices to collectively negotiate contract provisions with health maintenance organizations. The measure would help “level the playing field and provide doctors a little more ability to negotiate for their practices and their patients” with large, market-dominating health insurers that often offer take-it-or-leave-it contracts, he said. The legislation backed by the state medical society would prohibit collective work slowdowns, strikes or boycotts by physicians. Allen said the Westchester County Association in fall 2012 will sponsor its second annual forum to educate members on the impact of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and supporting regulations. “At the national health care reform level, we’re going to be looking at what’s being done in terms of the insurance exchanges and integration of care,” she said.