Liability reform returns to Georgia legislative agenda

New advocacy efforts in Georgia have elevated the importance of medical liability reform, adding it to a list of business and patient-focused priorities this legislative session.

Nearly 20 years ago, the state passed a $350,000 reasonable limit on non-economic damages, offering the promise that access to affordable care would remain available. In 2010, those limits were struck down by the state Supreme Court, and the urgency of reform failed to gain traction — until now.

Late last month, Governor Brian Kemp highlighted his support for reform in a speech at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Congressional Luncheon in Athens, focusing on the cost of meritless lawsuits that “drive up the price of insurance and stop new, good-paying jobs from ever coming to communities that need them the most.”

This legislative focus is coupled with a coalition called Competitive Georgia, working to raise awareness of the price Georgians pay for their broken liability system.

“Georgia companies, health-care providers and others have seen the cost of doing business rise substantially over the past decade due to runaway nuclear verdicts,” said state Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch. “We cannot let Georgia lose its status as the best state for business because of skyrocketing prices on goods and services, and insurance premiums reaching all-time highs.”

To read more about how legislators and advocates are elevating the economic benefits of liability reform to Georgia patients and providers, click here.

Insurance is elusive for rural New Mexico hospitals

Due to the passage of dramatically increased medical liability limits in New Mexico in 2021, rural hospitals across the state are finding it harder than ever to maintain affordable liability insurance coverage.

Case in point is Roosevelt General Hospital in Portales, New Mexico, serving a rural county with a sparse and spread-out population of nearly 20,000 people.

Hospital CEO Kaye Green shared how their insurance premiums have more than doubled in three years, going from $330,000 to $820,000. Ten of the 12 companies that the hospital sought quotes from declined because they no longer provide insurance in New Mexico.

State Senator Pat Woods understands that medical liability factors are one reason doctors are being pushed to practice elsewhere and worries about the future state of emergency care.

“It’s a terrible circle we’ve got going here,” Woods stated.

While lawmakers in the state did set aside some funding for rural health care, hospitals are requesting more attention and funding for this critical care issue.

Click here to read more about the liability insurance struggles faced by rural hospital systems.


COVID-era liability law struck down

A COVID-19 limited immunity statute passed in Arizona was recently struck down by the state’s appeals court, further exposing health care professionals to medical liability lawsuits.

Passed in the early days of COVID-19, the law exempted a health care professional or system from liability for treatment arising out of illness related to a pandemic unless the claimant proves by clear and convincing evidence that the professional or institution acted with “willful misconduct or gross negligence.”

In overturning the law, the court stated it “denies relief to patients injured by negligence in the provision of COVID-related medical treatment who cannot make the additional showing required to establish gross negligence.” 

The court also fueled future claims in its determination that the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act did not bar the plaintiff from bringing forward a pandemic-related claim in the first place.

The Health Coalition on Liability and Access continues to emphasize that a national emergency of the size and scale of COVID-19 requires a federal solution, taking on more urgency as state laws are being struck down and the PREP Act ruled inapplicable.

To read more about the status of COVID-19 liability immunity in Arizona, click here.