Protect Patients Now

Volume 6, Issue 3 MARCH 2011 Newsletter


Special points of interest:

HEALTH Act Scores Big
Lawsuit Loan Sharks
Protecting Patients and Providers
Reform 2.0 for Florida

HEALTH Act Scores Big

As the HEALTH Act makes its way through the maze of procedures on Capitol Hill, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has weighed in with an estimate on the cost savings the bill would have.

The CBO has determined that the HEALTH Act would reduce the federal deficit by $40 billion from 2011 to 2021. This includes $34 billion in savings from lower physicians’ premiums and a reduction in the practice of defensive medicine, and $6 billion from an increase in taxable wages attributed to the decrease in private health insurance premiums. A key provision of the bill is a reasonable limit of $250,000 on non-economic damages, which has been successfully implemented in California and Texas.

The CBO score shows that medical liability reform has a real impact on the bottom line of patients, physicians, and our federal budget. To read more about the CBO report, click here.

Lawsuit Loan Sharks

Protect Patients Now has previously noted efforts by those in the lending community who extend loans to plaintiffs in medical liability lawsuits, but now these lenders are lobbying at the state level to play by a new set of rules.

Companies within the lawsuit-lending industry are championing for separate rules that would not subject them to limits on interest rates or other state laws that protect borrowers – because they don’t seem to think they are loans at all.

The trade association representing these financial companies claims the funds extended to plaintiffs are “investments” and that the high fees are necessary because the loan is a risky bet that may not pay off at all.

Oasis Legal, one of the companies spearheading the effort, was able to secure passage of a law in Indiana that exempted them from standard lender laws. The company admittedly charges fees of up to 250% of the loan amount.

The practice is exploiting patients with legitimate claims. Lawyers and lenders are passing on exorbitant interest rates on loans that drain money from plaintiffs and cause them to owe more on their loan than they receive in any judgment.

Click here to read more about more about the increase in these lawsuit loan sharks.

Protecting Patients and Providers

In February, Congressman Phil Gingrey introduced the Provider Shield Act to protect physicians and patients from provisions in last year’s health care overhaul, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which may open up new opportunities for the filing of medical liability claims by establishing new standards of care.

The Provider Shield Act would clarify that any standards or guidelines arising from the ACA cannot be used to create new causes of legal action against physicians or other providers.

Even many of those who favored comprehensive medical liability reform, agreed that nothing in the law should be interpreted so as to further burden our nation’s broken medical liability system.

Without the Provider Shield Act, we face the possibility of substantially increased litigation that could threaten patient access to care by driving good doctors out of the practice of medicine.

Protect Patients Now urges bipartisan support of the Provider Shield Act to prevent a barrage of medical lawsuit abuse. To read the full text of the bill, click here.

Reform 2.0 for Florida

Florida patients and physicians already experience a relatively sunny medical liability climate due to an overhaul by former Governor Jeb Bush, but additional changes are on the way to shore up state funds and further reduce medical lawsuit abuse by personal injury lawyers.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, lawmakers are proposing reasonable limits on non-economic damages for Medicaid patients in order to reduce wasteful spending.

Doctors or hospitals treating Medicaid patients would have their liability for non-economic damages limited to $300,000, with exceptions for injured parties able to prove that the provider acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose.

Florida’s last major change to its liability system produced non-economic damage limits of $500,000 for doctors and $750,000 for hospitals, and the evidence that these changes lowered health care costs is as clear as its waters.

The number of closed lawsuits dropped from 3,574 in 2004 to 3,087 in 2009. Payouts have fallen from $664 million to $570 million during the same time frame, and total premiums paid dropped to $550 million, from $860 million.

Reform 2.0 in Florida seeks to ward off a looming shortage of physicians for the state’s increasingly aging population, and ensures access to quality medical care for the three million Medicaid patients in the Sunshine State. To read more about additional medical liability reforms on the horizon in Florida, click here.

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