HCLA actively advocates for Good Samaritan protections

This month, the Health Coalition on Liability and Access (HCLA) voiced its support for federal Good Samaritan legislation, actively advocating that Congress include the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act (H.R. 5239/S. 2941) in future pandemic preparedness bills.

On March 9, the coalition sent a letter to Chairwoman Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Ranking Member Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, following a recent hearing titled “Lessons from the Frontline: COVID-19s Impact on American Healthcare.”

“While you rightly consider how to respond to the next pandemic, it is important to remember that more needs to be done to address our ongoing circumstances,” the letter stated.

“Our frontline medical professionals and the facilities that employ them continue to face a potential flood of COVID-19-related medical liability lawsuits arising from a variety of issues beyond their control, including workforce shortages, shortages of personal protective equipment, and delays in nonessential care resulting from public health guidance and government mandates issued during the pandemic.”

The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act would provide medical liability protections for volunteer health care professionals providing health care services in response to a public health emergency or federally declared disaster.

The HLCA also recognized Senator Bill Cassidy, MD, (R-La.) for addressing the issue in the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee and pushing for the inclusion of Good Samaritan protections in pandemic preparedness bills under consideration by the committee. 

“I would continue to push for Good Samaritan legislation,” Senator Cassidy stated in his comments during the markup of S. 3799, the PREVENT Pandemics Act.

Referring to executive orders and legislation at the state level that developed in the course of the COVID-19 response, Senator Cassidy continued, “If a doctor, nurse, someone else goes to another state; during this epidemic they were given malpractice coverage, but in future epidemics it should be baked in so we don’t have to pass it.”

Click here to read HCLA’s letter to Chairwoman DeGette and Ranking Member Morgan Griffith, and here for HCLA’s press release in support of Senator Cassidy’s recognition of the importance of Good Samaritan legislation.

Liability premium increases rise to the highest level in two decades

For the third year in a row, the number of medical liability premiums with year-over-year increases jumped to the highest levels in nearly 20 years.

The increase was made clear through analysis by the American Medical Association (AMA) after an eight-year period with a fairly stable number of premium increases. In 2019, the proportion of premiums that increased was about 27%, almost double the rate from 2018. In both 2020 and 2021, nearly 30% of premiums increased.

“The medical liability insurance cycle is in a period of increasing premiums, compounding the economic woes for medical practices that struggled during the past two years of the pandemic,” said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, M.D. “The increase in premiums can force physicians to close their practices or drop vital services. This is detrimental to patients as higher medical costs can lead to reduced access to care.”

Twelve states reported double-digit premium increases in 2021. Illinois led all states with the largest proportion (58.9%) of premiums that increased 10% or more, followed by West Virginia (41.7%), Missouri (29.6%), Oregon (20%), South Carolina (16.7%), Idaho (11.1%), Kentucky (7.4%), Delaware (6.7%), Washington (6.7%), Michigan (5.4%) Texas (4.9%), and Georgia (3.7%). The size of the largest premium increase in these states ranged from 35.3% in Illinois to 10% in Idaho and Washington. The report noted that deteriorating underwriting results and lower loss reserve margins had been significant factors in the increases.

Wide differences in liability premiums remain based on geography, with OB-GYN premiums ranging from $49,804 in Los Angeles County, California, to $215,649 in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Through its efforts and membership in the HCLA, the AMA supports medical liability reforms across the spectrum to maintain access to care across the U.S.

Click here to read more about the AMA analysis on medical liability premium increases.

States recognize the importance of medical liability fixes

Both Connecticut and Florida took steps recently to recognize shortcomings in their state’s liability systems — and implement steps toward reform.

In Florida, where COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers were beginning to sunset, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed off on a bill that extends such protections through June 2023. 

State Rep. Ralph Massullo highlighted the need for protections to continue, given the pandemic’s continued presence and the changing nature of variants and treatments.

“We need to protect those healthcare entities that include the patients, that include the providers, that include the practices that you and I might go to for our healthcare that need to be staffed by individuals that believe and know that the state of Florida has their backs, is willing to protect them, so they can go out every day without fear of liability,” Massullo stated.

And in Connecticut, a problematic state for health care providers, lawmakers are beginning to realize the role that a poor liability climate plays in physician retention as health care demands rise and current providers retire.

“What they find is that there’s just so much red tape and bureaucracy and other measures that make it hard to be a doctor [here],” said Dr. Mona Shahriari, a Connecticut dermatologist. “They keep seeing constant changes and struggles within our state, and they don’t see those struggles in other states.”

Legislation currently under consideration in Connecticut would create a task force to review the state’s medical liability policies and identify possible reforms that would lessen the burden on physicians. The task force would submit a report with their findings by Jan. 1, 2023.