Friday, February 18, 2005

Kentucky Malpractice Reform

A bill to change Kentucky's malpractice regulations passed committee. In case you're not keeping score, since this blog started, we've chronicled the battle between physicians and malpractice trial lawyers in Kentucky, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Georgia, Montana, Washington, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and North Carolina. Looks like a national solution could free up a lot of time for other matters in state legislatures:

A proposed constitutional amendment aimed at curbing the inflation of Kentucky doctors' medical malpractice insurance rates cleared a Senate committee yesterday. The measure, endorsed by the Kentucky Medical Association, is essentially the same proposal that has been backed by Senate Republicans in past sessions. The proposal requires a three-fifths majority, or 23 votes, by the Senate to advance to the House."


Senate approves malpractice changes

The Senate approved Arizona's apology law, plus other measures favored by doctors:

"The measure would provide a legal shield for doctors' apologies, tighten requirements for the credentials of expert witnesses testifying in court and make it easier for insurance defense lawyers to question health-care providers.
It also makes it easier for lawyers to seek medical records.
Trial attorneys oppose the bill. They argue lawmakers shouldn't make it harder for patients to recover damages for medical mistakes."


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Summary of malpractice effects

This intelligent letter, from the University of Arizona Daily Wildcat, neatly summarizes some of the costs of the current malpractice litigation system:

"Dillon Fishman's defense of the current tort system is misleading. Our tort system drains $200 billion from the U.S. economy each year. The median jury award in malpractice cases exceeds $1 million, which is more than adequate for the starving litigator. Meanwhile, skyrocketing insurance premiums have forced many obstetricians and specialists out of business. Furthermore, the hidden costs of fraudulent malpractice claims may be much greater than the insurance premiums. More than 70 percent of doctors order unnecessary tests and treatments simply to avoid being sued. "

Link (2nd letter down)...

Trouble in paradise...

Even Hawaii can't escape the issue of malpractice lawsuits and rising malpractice insurance rates:

"Maui doctors warn that some specialists could quit practicing in Hawaii if the state fails to act on the increasing threat of high-cost claims in lawsuits against physicians.
The physicians are appealing to the state Senate Health Committee, which will meet today on a bill that would place a cap on damages awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits. The meeting on Senate Bill 757 is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. at the State Capitol. The committee deferred action on the bill Friday. "


Apology without malpractice suit?

Arizona lawmakers want to make it legal for doctors to apologize to their patients without the apology being included in lawsuits. Trial attorneys are against it:

Senate Bill 1036 would allow doctors and other medical providers to say "I'm sorry" without their apologies being admitted in court as evidence of liability or as an admission of guilt.At least six states have passed a similar bill, and there is anecdotal evidence that it's resulted in fewer lawsuits being filed.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Malpractice Reform Compromise Passes in Atlanta

Now just waiting for the governor to sign...

"Georgia lawmakers settled three years of arguing over medical malpractice laws Monday when the Senate agreed to place a $350,000 cap on pain-and-suffering awards for people hurt by negligent doctors.

The bill makes sweeping changes to the rules for people suing doctors for malpractice, changes aimed at shielding doctors from expensive or frivolous lawsuits. Doctors have long argued that they're being run out of business by high malpractice insurance rates.

The Senate originally voted to cap pain-and-suffering awards at $250,000, a limit the doctors and their insurers wanted. But the House raised that cap to $350,000, and after a failed attempt last week, the Senate agreed to that change Monday. The agreement means the bill awaits only the governor's signature to become law. "


Georgia Tort Debate

This article from Georgia frames the debate from both sides:

"It comes down to who can hire the sharpest lawyers and what kind of jury you have. Do you have a jury that can evaluate data and reach a rational decision? Or do you have a jury that wants to give money away?

...Larry Sanders, chairman of Columbus Regional Healthcare System, points to the cost of malpractice insurance for his company.

Four years ago, Columbus Regional was self-insured up to $2 million. For any judgment over that, the company was covered by a policy that cost about $170,000. This year, Columbus Regional has increased its self-insurance exposure to $3 million. The policy to cover any damages in excess of that now costs the company about $1 million. Had Columbus Regional maintained its self-insurance level at $2 million, the policy would have cost the company more than $1.6 million.

Healthcare providers say the high cost of insurance coverage translates into high prices for healthcare."


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Trial Lawyers promise uphill battle for malpractice reform

In this New York Sun article, attorneys promise uphill battle for president Bush's tort reform agenda:

"It's certainly much easier to see the human impact of malpractice when you have kids who are killed and grandparents who are abused in nursing homes and people who are killed by dangerous drugs like Vioxx," he said. "Those are very different issues people can see much more clearly."


Monday, February 14, 2005

Meanwhile, in Montana...

You don't have to be in New York, Pennsylvania or Atlanta to run into the malpractice crisis. Patients in Montana are losing the services of doctors thanks to malptractice lawsuits:

"In 2002, Montana's medical liability premium rates increased 118 percent for family physicians, 196 percent for obstetricians and 211 percent for neurologists. The same year, St. Vincent Healthcare, one of two major hospitals in Billings, saw its premium costs soar from $300,000 to $3 million."