November 2013 Newsletter
Protect Patients Now

Volume 8, Issue 11 November 2013 Newsletter


Special points of interest:

HCLA Defends Liability Reform in Health Affairs Letter
Detroit News: ER Doctors Need Reform, Relief
PPN is Thankful for Efforts to Protect Patient Care
Lack of Medical Liability Reform in Affordable Care Act Having Unintended Consequences

HCLA Defends Liability Reform in Health Affairs Letter

The HCLA welcomed the focus by Health Affairs on the need for medical liability reform, but responded to the authors in a letter published this month and defended the effectiveness of reforms at the state level.

In the initial study, written by notable medical liability reform researchers Emily R. Carrier, James D. Reschovsky, David A. Katz and Michelle M. Mello, the authors state, “results suggest that prior cost estimates based on comparisons between states with and without caps on damages or high malpractice risk, malpractice premiums, or claims costs (including comparisons of variations in states over time) may not reflect physicians behavior or fully capture the influence of physicians, malpractice concerns on defensive medicine.”

HCLA Chairs Katie Orrico and Mike Stinson responded, stating that “Emily Carrier and coauthors provide evidence that physicians’ increased medical liability risk leads to more aggressive practice of defensive medicine and that comprehensive medical liability reform must be undertaken to reduce this practice. However, we disagree with their conclusion that liability reforms at the state level have been unsuccessful in reducing the use of unnecessary medical tests and procedures.”

“…The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has found that total Medicare spending per beneficiary was 4 percent lower in states with limits on noneconomic damages than in states without limits, pointing to the obvious impact that defensive medicine has on health care costs,” the letter continues.

While state medical liability reforms have been effective in reducing costs and increasing physician supply, Protect Patients Now and the HCLA continue to push for comprehensive federal reforms that will eliminate the patchwork of state laws, reduce frivolous lawsuits and fully protect patient access to care.

Click here to read the full HCLA Letter to the Editor, published in the November edition of Health Affairs.

Detroit News: ER Doctors Need Reform, Relief

An editorial that appeared recently in the Detroit News lent support to an effort in the Michigan Legislature to rein in meritless lawsuits against emergency room physicians throughout the state.

Emergency room physicians often find themselves treating patients who are unconscious and unable to give the doctor adequate background information for treatment. Sometimes the patient’s records are not available. Often, the records don’t even exist, explained Diane Bollman, executive director of the Michigan College of Emergency Physicians.

“The liability in such medical situations has many specialists declining to be on call [in emergency rooms],” the editorial stated.

The liability limits in the legislation would improve patient care and help retain and even attract doctors to Michigan while still allowing deserving patients to seek damages.

“The bill doesn’t apply to elective surgeries or gross negligence,” said Antonio Bonfiglio, M.D., the past president of the Michigan College of Emergency Physicians. “This isn’t a get out of jail free card (absolving doctors of all liability). This applies when patients are in emergency situations and when additional physician care is needed.”

The bill introduced in the Michigan House is intended to provide some liability relief for all physicians who administer emergency care — from the emergency room doctors to cardiologists, radiologists and other specialists, and is similar to recent legislation passed in Georgia and Texas.

“It’s a fair approach to offering medical tort relief,” the editorial concludes – and to which Protect Patients Now agrees. Read the Detroit News editorial in full here.

PPN is Thankful for Efforts to Protect Patient Care

Just in time for Thanksgiving, bipartisan efforts by Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Tom Carper (D-DE) to protect patient care resulted in the introduction earlier this month of S. 1769, the Standard of Care Protection Act – the Senate version of legislation previously introduced by Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) in the House.

PPN is “thankful” for the work being done by our elected officials to reduce medical lawsuit abuse and ensure patients have access to the care they need, when they need it most.

Like its companion legislation in the House, the bill ensures that no provisions of federal health care law, including the Affordable Care Act, may be inappropriately used to create new threats for medical liability litigation in the United States.

We go greater into detail on the necessity of this legislation below, as there have been efforts recently to take advantage the loophole in the Affordable Care Act that allow personal injury lawyers to target physicians with meritless lawsuits.

Protect Patients Now and the HCLA will continue to monitor efforts to include the language from Senate bill in a larger legislative framework to reform the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), expected to be considered by the Senate before the end of 2013.

To read S. 1769, the Standard of Care Protection Act, in full, click here.

Lack of Medical Liability Reform in Affordable Care Act Having Unintended Consequences

Quality metrics and standards of care included in the Affordable Care Act and intended to improve health care outcomes are having unintended consequences and are opening up new avenues of liability against physicians.

Initial concerns about language in the ACA have proven to be valid, with attorneys and insurers already getting word of instances where federal reimbursement decisions are being introduced into medical liability cases.

Lawyers have used federal payment denials to bolster their claims of negligence, according to Mike Stinson, director of government relations for the Physician Insurers Association of America and Chairman of the HCLA.

Language in the ACA referring to hospital readmission standards is one example of a federal quality measurement that could unfairly impact doctors in court, said Brian K. Atchinson, PIAA president and CEO. The ACA reduces payments to hospitals considered to have excessive readmissions.

“The mere fact that there will be many thousands of people that will be readmitted to a hospital within 30 days, that should not be evidence of inadequate care,” Atchinson said.

Georgia and Florida have passed legislation banning federal quality measures from being used to create standards in medical liability lawsuits, but a federal solution, such as the Standard of Care bills introduced in both the House and Senate, is necessary.

You can click here to read more about how language in the Affordable Care Act is having unintended consequences by unfairly targeting physicians with frivolous lawsuits.