May 2017 Newsletter

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  • May 30, 2017


Liability reform cited as major savings in President’s budget

With an emphasis on deficit reduction, the President’s 2018 budget highlighted how medical liability reform can lead to improved fiscal health.

Cited as resulting in major savings and reform, medical liability reform is noted in the President’s budget as necessary due to the fact that “the current medical liability system does not work for patients or providers, nor does it provide quality, evidence-based care,” budget language states.

The liability reform proposal in the budget contains proven state reforms that have lowered costs and increased access to care in states such as California, Texas, West Virginia, and Ohio.

This allows for deficit reductions of $55 billion over 10 years upon passage of a bill that contains reasonable limits on non-economic damages of $250,000 (increasing with inflation), a three-year statute of limitations, and modifications on attorney’s fees to ensure deserving patients – not personal injury lawyers – benefit from liability judgments and settlements.

To review the medical liability reform proposal contained within the President’s budget, click here.

Panel discussion yields insights into future of liability reform

Taking part in a legal panel on the future of medical liability reform, HCLA chair Mike Stinson joined with legal experts and those supporting the interests of consumers to give insight on how efforts to change the currently broken system will evolve.

Hosted by George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School and the school’s Law & Economics Center, the panel represented varying legal, industry, and patient interests. Speaking on behalf of PIAA and their government relations efforts, Stinson talked about the benefit of liability reforms to deserving patients and federal health care spending.

“The proposals [under consideration] have been scored as providing significant federal savings if enacted by Congress,” Stinson commented. “Our interest is that we get a more uniform system of medical justice across the United States.”

Pushing back on assertions by other panel members that federal liability reform is unnecessary or unconstitutional, Stinson stated that “the system needs to be corrected – it’s incredibly inefficient. When two-thirds of all claims are dropped, withdrawn, or dismissed because they lack merit, but still cost tens of thousands of dollars each to defend against, you’ve got a system that’s not working correctly.”

To watch the medical liability reform panel discussion in full, click here.

Pre-existing condition: New York’s broken liability system

Writing on behalf of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, executive director Thomas Stebbins lays out the extent of the medical liability crisis in New York – a condition that continues to be left untreated.

As analysis repeatedly cites New York as one of the worst states to practice medicine, patients and physicians feel the symptoms of the state’s broken liability system.

The cause of the pain? “…New York’s broken liability laws – laws that are bought and paid for by the state’s powerful trial lawyer special interest lobby,” writes Stebbins.

Without reasonable limits on non-economic damages and basic protections to ensure only expert witness testimony is permitted, physicians are forced to pass on the costs of their sky-high liability insurance premiums or practice elsewhere, and patients are left with fewer options for access to affordable care.

Now, a new proposal is on the table – increasing the window of time before the statute of limitations expires — and it’s one that could cripple the state’s health care system for good.

“New York cannot continue to reign in last place; the Legislature needs to reject proposals that force talented medical professionals out of our state and focus on fixing the crisis at hand,” Stebbins concludes.

To read the full opinion piece on the ailing liability system in New York, click here.

Liability reform brings help to the Hawkeye State

The Iowa Medical Society’s long-term pursuit of liability reform was validated earlier this month, when the state passed a bill that helps Iowa patients maintain access to critical care.

Passage of these medical liability reforms comes over a decade after the last time they were passed by the Iowa legislature but ultimately vetoed.

The bill as passed takes effect on July 1, 2017, and includes reasonable limits of $250,000 on non-economic damages, strengthened expert witness standards, requirements for certificate of merit in liability lawsuits, and expanded protections to allow physicians to openly discuss suboptimal outcomes with patients without such communications being considered an admission of guilt.

“Today’s historic achievement is a victory for every physician, resident, and medical student in the state of Iowa,” said Iowa Medical Society President Joyce Vista-Wayne, MD, DFAPA. “This success would not have been possible without the tireless work of so many individuals to give the house of medicine a strong voice in the legislative process. I am delighted to begin my tenure as President of the Iowa Medical Society with enactment of these sweeping reforms.”

To read more about the passage of liability reform in Iowa, click here.

Oregon court ruling opens avenues for defensive medicine, lawsuit abuse

The Oregon Supreme Court issued a ruling that could have wider implications for physicians and patients seeking access to affordable care across the state.

The Oregon Supreme Court held that “loss of chance,” or the lack of a chance for a more favorable outcome, is a separate, compensable claim that does not require proof of medical negligence.

The Supreme Court did not determine that patients must show a “substantial chance” of a better outcome, nor what the threshold for a more favorable outcome would be. The court found that the plaintiff’s loss of a 33 percent chance of a more favorable outcome was a “substantial chance,” allowing the liability lawsuit to proceed.

The Oregon Medical Association and American Medical Association both submitted briefs to the high court arguing that adopting a loss-of-chance theory in medical malpractice cases would lead to defensive medicine.

To read more about the Oregon ruling and the implications that a new avenue for liability cases could have on medical lawsuit abuse, click here.