Patient Protection Measures in Place in Missouri

Over the past three years, following the repeal of limits on non-economic damages, patients in Missouri were left vulnerable as physicians considered relocation or closure. Now, the Governor of Missouri has ensured that access to care is not a false promise.

In supporting the reinstatement of reasonable limits on non-economic damages, Governor Jay Nixon said the state Supreme Court decision to repeal the measure created a level of uncertainty.

“This decision resulted in a new problem by creating a climate of financial uncertainty for health care providers,” he said.

As the bill went through the Missouri House and Senate, support was found on both sides of the political aisle – including from those who previously opposed efforts to reform the state’s liability laws.

“Together we are marking the successful completion of a bipartisan effort to ensure that our health care providers can continue to do what they do best, help and heal Missourians in need,” Nixon stated as he signed the bill into law.

Bipartisan results were achieved by slightly raising the limits and agreeing to annual percentage increases. To read more about the passage of medical liability reform for Missouri patients, click here.

Evaluating Alternatives in Liability Reform

An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal acknowledged that overcoming defensive medicine is half the battle in reducing costs, eliminating unnecessary tests and procedures, and reforming our liability system.

Proposing alternatives to traditional, proven reform measures were Dr. Allen Kachalia, chief quality officer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Sanjay Saint, chief of medicine at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and a professor at the University of Michigan Medical School.

“Physicians should not feel compelled to order more testing or procedures to shield themselves from malpractice lawsuits brought by patients who may feel that their doctors did not do ‘everything possible,'” write Drs. Kachalia and Saint.

Instead of recommending proven reforms, like reasonable limits on non-economic damages, the authors suggest alternatives, including safe harbors, health courts, or communication and resolution programs.

When the University of Michigan Health System implemented a communication and resolution program, malpractice claims dropped by 36 percent while attorney and patient compensation costs dropped by 59 percent.

As the Michigan Model is tried in health systems around the country, Protect Patients Now acknowledges the promise this method of reform could hold, while continuing to push concurrently for passage at the federal level of more comprehensive reforms that are proven to reduce costs and increase access to care.

To read the op-ed on alternative approaches to medical liability reform, click here.

Fewer Meritless Lawsuits in PA

Significant changes to Pennsylvania’s liability laws have led to a steep decline in lawsuits, with nearly half as many filed statewide in 2014 compared to 2002.

It was 2002 when the state’s Supreme Court applied common sense to Pennsylvania liability laws, mandating that litigation be reviewed by medical professionals before being allowed to proceed and that lawsuits be filed in the county where the cause of action took place.

Effects of this change are particularly evident in Philadelphia, which was previously the home to a disproportionate number of lawsuits as personal injury attorneys sought out sympathetic juries for cases without merit.

“Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of malpractice claims are dropped, dismissed, withdrawn, or found in favor of the defendant,” said Charles Moran spokesman for the Pennsylvania Medical Society. “In other words, there is a high amount of frivolous and meritless lawsuits that are filed.”

Moran conveyed that the beneficiary of such changes are deserving patients, looking to expeditiously resolve their claims. The legal changes “have not kept legitimate claims from being filed and winning in courts,” he said.

To read more about the decline in meritless lawsuits across Pennsylvania, click here.